Oh, irreverent Lego humor, we barely had time to miss you.
The biggest problem with “The Lego Ninjago Movie” — an entertaining and quirky-fun animated adventure in a vacuum — is it comes so soon after this year’s enjoyable “The Lego Batman Movie.” Like that February release, “Ninjago” is a fast-paced and family-friendly tale constructed with digital versions of Lego blocks and people.
And while the Lego version of the Caped Crusader is nowhere to be found, it feels like we just did this.
Maybe that shouldn’t matter — and it likely won’t matter one bit to younger viewers — but a little Lego fatigue might set in for those who haven’t snapped one Lego brick on to another in years.
Based on some similar TV shows, “The Lego Ninjago Movie” is set in Ninjago, a seaside city where a team of young ninjas drive mechanized beasts to defend the city from evil. That evil typically comes in form of conquest-hungry, four-armed warlord Garmadon (voiced by Justin Theroux), who attacks so regularly from his nearby volcanic lair that “Good Morning Ninjago” has a daily “Attack Forecast” segment.
That’s especially rough for a lad named Lloyd (Dave Franco), who’s known to be Garmadon’s son — well, known to everyone but Garmadon, seemingly — which makes him an outcast at school.
“That’s the kid I was telling you about,” a girl whispers to a friend as Lloyd walks by at school. “His dad ruins everything.”
There’s even a new hit song about how much Lloyd sucks, so that can’t be enjoyable for him.
However, known only to the rest of the masked team of ninjas, Lloyd is secretly the heroic and admired Green Ninja. Oh, if only people knew!
To say father and son are estranged is an understatement. On Lloyd’s birthday, Garmadon calls him — must have been a “butt dial,” the warlord reasons out loud — and insists Lloyd can’t be his son. After all, his son is bald and has no teeth. Lloyd — or, as Garmadon calls him, “La-loyd” — explains to Dad that that was him, but 16 years ago, as a baby. (Garmadon isn’t the sharpest Lego warlord in the toy drawer, if you didn’t put that together.)
What follows, of course, is an adventure where father will have to battle son, before father and son have to work together, possibly bonding along the way.
The other key cartoon player in the mix is Master Wu (Jackie Chan, who also appears in live-action scenes that bookend the movie), Garmadon’s brother and an adviser to Lloyd and the team.
The best voice work is turned in by Theroux. You may not expect this kind of over-the-top performance from “The Leftovers” and “The Girl on the Train” star, but he sounds like he’s having a blast with it.
Also, Franco (“Now You See Me 2”) does a nice job with Lloyd, helping to make the character relatable.
If we’re not miscounting, the screenplay for “The Lego Ninjago Movie” is credited to six writers, with a story-by credit going to seven folks. (Yes, there’s some overlap there.) Really, the story being told is less important that the myriad jokes and visual ideas that populate the movie, and many of them are very solid. We won’t give away what the “ultimate-ultimate weapon” Wu tells Lloyd about proves to be, but you might have an idea when you first see it and have a laugh at what’s to come.
A trio of directors — Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan — keeps things moving along at hyper-speed, which is appropriate; if we have time to catch our breath for long, we’ll likely realize we’ve already had too much sugar.
Counted among the movie’s producers are Phil Lord and Christopher MIller, directors of 2014’s “The Lego Movie,” and Chris McCay, “Lego Batman” director, so it’s hardly surprising “Ninjago” feels so on-brand.
On brand, yes. Fresh, no.
“The Lego Ninjago Movie” simply doesn’t feel special, but the Lego and Warner Bros. Pictures folks seemingly want to amass as many building blocks (see what we did there?) to an animated-film film empire as quickly as possible.
Guys, just make sure it doesn’t topple over.
‘The Lego Ninjago Movie’
In theaters: Sept. 22.
Rated: PG for some mild action and rude humor.
Runtime: 1 hour, 40 minutes.
Stars (of four): 2.5.