It was awfully easy to be cynical about the idea of The LEGO Movie
, but the film’s clever humor, infectiously anarchic spirit, and eye-catching animation proved you can turn a feature-length toy commercial into compelling — and even downright moving — viewing. Three years later
, we’ve got ourselves a whole LEGO cinematic universe, which expands to include one of the plastic brickmaker’s more popular offshoots with this weekend’s The LEGO Ninjago Movie
. Based on the Ninjago toy and TV mythology, which is too elaborate to delve into here but involves the ninjas and dragons so beloved among the target LEGO demographic, this spinoff follows the adventures of six teens (led by Dave Franco) determined to thwart an evil warlord (Justin Theroux) with the help of their wise Master Wu (Jackie Chan). It’s just the type of self-affirming quest we’ve seen plenty of times before, in other words — and exactly the kind of formula previous LEGO
outings have effectively tweaked. Unfortunately, that streak stops here: reviews describe an animated adventure that isn’t quite fun or funny enough to disguise its overall familiarity with earlier LEGO
films, and more than a few critics have argued that without a creative shakeup, the franchise could be in trouble. That being said, the target demographic should still find it perfectly entertaining, so prepare to purchase matinee tickets… and field requests for a few Ninjago sets after the end credits roll.