The LEGO cinematic world continues to expand with “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” – a solid follow-up to “The LEGO Movie” and “LEGO Batman.”
It doesn’t quite have the sharp pacing and across-the-board humor as the previous two films, but it is still lots of fun with enough moments to appease the entire family.
The set-up for “Ninjago” is simple: Lloyd (voiced by Dave Franco) is the estranged son of super villain Garmadon (Justin Theroux) and is ostracized by the rest of the city of Ninjago because his dad keeps trying to overthrow the city.
To combat his isolation, Lloyd doubles as the Green Ninja, part of a group of secret warriors whose sole purpose is to prevent Garmadon from completing his plans of annihilation. The ninjas, trained by Master Wu (voiced by Jackie Chan), attempt to learn the ways of their arts while also trying to navigate high school.
“Ninjago” is full of voice talents with everyone from Kumail Nanjiani to Fred Armisen lending a hand. Chan fares the best of the group, as it starts to become evident that 2017 is the year that the longtime action hero has made the successful transition to voice actor. (Chan was the best thing about the dreadful “Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature.”)
As a bonus, Chan also appears in the live action wrap-around story, showing off his acrobatic skill.
Like the other two movies, this cast gets plenty of pop-culture, rapid-fire dialogue that kids will enjoy and adults will appreciate as well. The film is also full of clever visual gags, including a running joke with a live-action cat that provides the film with some of its funniest moments.
“Ninjago” does start to drag a bit in the final act, with the film’s message about family poured on a little too heavy-handed.
Still, there is enough sprinkled throughout that it is easy to forgive the lackluster finale.
It is a step behind the previous two LEGO films, but it is still a step above most of the other animated releases in 2017.
Also in theaters
It may have bombed at the box office, grossing $7.5 million in its opening weekend, but “Mother!” (D) – the latest from writer/director Darren Aronofsky – has certainly garnered plenty of discussion.
With generally positive reviews from most critics and a jaw-dropping F cinemascore from audiences, it has proven to be one of the most divisive films of the year. Put me firmly in the camp of the people on this one, which is a pretentious pile of trash that acts like it is way more profound than it actually is.
Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play a couple living in a remote area in a beautiful house that Lawrence is renovating while Bardem, a poet, works on his latest project.
Their seemingly secluded existence is tested, however, when a stranger (Ed Harris) shows up one night followed closely behind by his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer). From there things go completely off the rails, with Lawrence’s character (listed in the credits only as Mother) becoming increasingly frustrated as her perfect world crumbles around her.
Aronofsky has always been a polarizing filmmaker with a resume that includes “Requiem for a Dream,” “Black Swan” and “The Wrestler.” I’m a huge fan of “The Wrestler” but was one of few people left cold by “Black Swan.”
“Mother!” makes “Black Swan” look like “La La Land” with its convoluted story serving as a religious allegory that has the subtlety of a mallet to the temple.
Lawrence is asked to carry most of the movie (most of the time with the camera parked awkwardly in her face to the point that you wonder how she doesn’t keep banging into the lens), but it’s in a movie that grows more tiresome as it goes along.
“Mother!” plods along with a few moments that work (mostly involving Pfeiffer) before steamrolling toward a third act that I found to be appalling and offensive.
I get it. Aronofsky is trying to make a statement with “Mother!,” but just because you make an attempt doesn’t mean you give in to its faults. Sure he tried, but man it is a huge swing and miss.
“Mother!” is rated R for strong disturbing violent content, some sexuality, nudity and language and is now playing at the Regal Greenwood Mall Stadium 10.