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Movie Review

Lloyd Garmadon leads a double life.

On the one hand he's just an average teenage misfit—a kid who's well loved by his mom but not much by anyone else. I mean, hey, high school is tough enough, you know? A pretty judgy place if you ask Lloyd.

On top of that, Lloyd also has another burden to bear: It just so happens that Lloyd's absentee dad is none other than the evil warlord Garmadon.

Yeah, that evil warlord Garmadon: the totally evil do-badder who regularly tries to take over or destroy their home of Ninjago City. This four-armed, demonic-looking dude is so foully bad that he lives inside a volcano, fer crying out loud!

Now, that's some pretty negative parental guidance right there.

Of course, his dad's rep only heaps more coals on Lloyd's head. Just about all the kids at school hate him. Some guy even made up an obnoxious song called "Boo Lloyd" just to rub it in. And it became a hit on the radio.

Poor Lloyd.

But it's not all bad news. Which brings us back to Lloyd's double life.

You see, he and his fellow outcast friends also happen to secretly be … ninja warriors. Led by the mysterious Master Wu—a wisecracking wily wise man of the far We …, er, East—these six teens wear colorful outfits, pilot decked-out battle mechs and wield magical elemental powers.

There's Kai the red fire ninja; Cole the black earth ninja; Nya the grey water ninja; Jay the blue lightning ninja; Zane the white ice ninja; and Lloyd the green, uh, green ninja. (Maybe it's an environmental thing, Lloyd's not sure.)

Lloyd and his masked pals are as beloved in their ninja roles as they are ostracized as regular teens. They're also the only force that has a chance of beating Garmadon and his baddies. And so they fight on in secret.

The problem is, even this "famous" side of Lloyd's life actually isn't so great. Every time they face off with his warlord foe of a father, Lloyd realizes just how much he's missed in his life because of that oblivious evil guy. He's never had a dad to look up to. He's never had a father to teach him important father-son stuff. He's only had an enemy who doesn't seem to care in the least that he has a son out in the world somewhere.

Then one day during a typical battle with Garmadon and his wicked army, something goes wrong. Thinking that he might put an end to his dad's evil forces once and for all, Lloyd accidentally unleashes a terrible monster on the city.

Now the green ninja is in something of a pickle. (And that's not a green ninja power.)

To save everyone, Lloyd must embark upon a perilous, life-threatening quest. But worse, he might need to resort to something even more horrible. Something unthinkable.

He might have to … ask his father for help.

Positive Elements

"Nobody's parents are perfect," one of Lloyd's friends says to make him feel better. Another pal agrees: "I mean, my mom is weird and collects seashells. Your dad levels cities and attacks innocent people. So, they've all got their quirks." That interaction sets the stage for this kid pic's exploration of familial bonds and Lloyd's longing for a deeper father-son connection. As the story unfolds, we witness the transforming power of a loving relationship as well as the difference forgiveness and communication can make in a broken one.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie also suggests that feeling like an outcast isn't a permanent season of life. Sometimes difficult situations can change if you alter your perspective and work toward the changes you'd like to see, the film tells us. Lloyd, for his part, eventually discovers his ability to be a leader thanks to Master Wu's prompting.

[Spoiler Warning] Lloyd's relationship with his dad shifts substantially and the teen expresses his love for both of his parents. We see the sacrificial choices that Lloyd's mom, Koko, has made for him. "Your mom was the best," a humbled Garmadon eventually admits. "She wanted the best of me and only wanted the best for you. I never should have left." The baddie softens as he remembers his love for Koko and the choices he should have made, but didn't. Later, Garmadon is surprised at how much he enjoys doing the kinds of father-son things Lloyd's often longed for.

Spiritual Content

Master Wu speaks to his young charges in vague spiritual terms about the energy that flows through all things and the ninja teens' innate ability to tap into the elemental powers within them. Accordingly, each one wields his or her abilities in element-specific ways.

Sexual Content

Some blocky LEGO characters on the beach wear swimsuits and bikinis. Garmadon demonstrates a trick he can do with his two sets of arms, turning his back and pretending to be making out with two people. A secondary character, the Fuchsia Ninja, acts a bit effeminately. During a fight with Master Wu, Garmadon rips off his opponent's pants and laughs at the man's "tightie whities."

Violent Content

This is a "ninja" movie, so there is plenty of thumping hand-to-hand combat with kicks, punches and club blows. Larger conflicts feature robot-like battle mechs and involve plastic missiles and explosives that send LEGO blocks and characters flying. Special weapons shoot full-size sharks and other plastic aquatic animals. (Really.)

When he's upset, Garmadon launches his displeasing generals from the top of his volcano base like so many flaming missiles. Later we see a large group of them, with their hair and outfits still smoldering with glowing embers. LEGO skeletons are scattered around a dark and shadowy part of this plastic world, too.

A giant, live-action cat "monster" knocks over large buildings and smashes the ninja's mechs. It even swallows Garmadon whole at one point. But, of course, all of the above is bloodless LEGO block violence that's played out in humorous ways.

Crude or Profane Language

Garmadon sends a letter full of silly name-calling, including the line, "You're a stupid dummy with a big butt and you smell like a butt." That's a concentrated representation of the toilet-tinged verbal volleys viewers encounter throughout this pic—along with a few uses of "oh my gosh" and "what the heck."

Garmadon spits out a veiled wink at profanity when he huffs, "He and I are gonna have words. And you can bet some of those words are gonna have four letters."

Drug and Alcohol Content

Garmadon throws a pool party for his evil hordes, and some partiers sip on paper umbrella-adorned mixed drinks.

Other Negative Elements

Early on, Garmadon is oblivious to the pain his actions have caused. "How could I have ruined your life?" he asks his emotionally wounded son. "I wasn't even there."

After a frightening interaction, Garmadon quips, "I might need a change of armor."

Conclusion

Ninjas, giant battle mechs, Jackie Chan and LEGOs. Oh my.

The third entry in the LEGO movie franchise definitely takes a different tack than the first two super hero-focused flicks. But this latest LEGO tale still feels, uh, apiece with the plastic-block cinematic universe we've come to know so well.

It's packed with quick irreverent quips and break-everything-into-pieces goofy action. And the whole thing plays out in a grand, ridiculous scale. We've got villains that live inside an active volcano, and who attack cities with shark-launching weapons. We've got a live-action tabby that appears as a skyscraper-tumbling monstrosity.

That said, I couldn't help but think that this kid flick's spoofing of '80s-style martial arts movies felt a tad slow and predictable at first. (And may be a bit too "Buy this cool kit at your local retailer!" merchandise-centered as well.) And even though the pic frowns at bullying, judgmental types, that doesn't keep it from indulging in quite a bit of "stupid-dummy-smelly-butt" name-calling nonetheless.

That said, once we turn the corner and reach the heart of this pic, it's all snap-together polypropylene goodness. Familial love prevails, misunderstood kids are welcomed with open arms, and a baddie begins to discover how love and forgiveness can make major changes in a person's life.

It all kinda clicks, in a fun-and-happy LEGO way.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

PG

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Voices of Jackie Chan as Master Wu/Mr. Liu; Dave Franco as Lloyd; Justin Theroux as Garmadon; Olivia Munn as Koko; Fred Armisen as Cole; Kumail Nanjiani as Jay; Zach Woods as Zane; Michael Peña as Kai; Abbi Jacobso as Nya

Director

Bob Logan ( )Paul Fisher ( )Charlie Bean ( )

Distributor

Warner Bros.

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

September 22, 2017

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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