The LEGO Ninjago Movie releases in theaters nationwide today and, so far, reviews seem to indicate that for the first time ever everything is, in fact, not awesome in the LEGO cinematic universe. The kid’s movie currently holds a shockingly mediocre 48 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as critics wondered if the law of diminishing returns is beginning to take effect for LEGO films.
Ninjago tells the story of six ninjas hired to protect the capital city of Ninjago from monsters sent by the evil Lord Garmadon. Complications arise when one of the ninjas discovers that Lord Garmadon is actually his dad. The film stars Dave Franco, Jackie Chan, Abbi Jacobson, and Kumail Nanjiani.
Several reviewers criticized the movie for lacking the structural coherence of the previous two LEGO films, as Emily Yoshada from Vulture described the LEGO Ninjago Movie as “a vague mash-up of martial arts, giant monster, and mecha genres.” Critics also noted the formulaic approach to the film’s plot and characters, lamenting the fact that Ninjago fell into lazy, messy narrative traps that the previous two LEGO films had so brilliantly subverted. Peter Howell of the Star summarized the general critic consensus perfectly, complaining that “everything feels manufactured but nothing really connects in this ninja-themed adventure.”
Not all reviews were negative, as several critics praised the film’s humor, voice acting, and visual effects. Brad Wheeler of The Globe and Mail gave Ninjago four out of five stars, describing the film as “an irreverent, kinetic presentation with snappy dialogue and a hammered-home message.” Still, even the positive reviews were mostly filled with faint praise that felt like an obligatory endorsement of a film that meets the base requirements of entertainment.
These lukewarm reviews are pretty disappointing, especially compared to the first two LEGO movies. The LEGO Movie and the LEGO Batman Movie were both massive financial and critical successes and were seen as the building blocks of a kid’s movie empire with the potential to take on Disney and Dreamworks. Those movies felt fresh and innovative, playing with the tropes of well-known genres while also remaining visually stunning, devastatingly funny, and surprisingly emotional. Hopefully, this is a one-time misfire that doesn’t represent any major decline in quality in the LEGO movies to come. Besides, it’ll still make millions of dollars.