10 Things Parents Should Know About ‘The LEGO Ninjago Movie’

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lego ninjago
Art courtesy of Warner Bros.

Contains some spoilers for The LEGO Ninjago Movie.

What is it?
The LEGO Ninjago Movie is the third movie in the LEGO movie series. It’s based on the LEGO Ninjago sets and features the characters from the LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu television show.

Lloyd (Dave Franco) is a teenage misfit who suffers at school because his absentee father, the evil warlord Garmadon (Justin Theroux) is constantly threatening his home, Ninjago City. But Lloyd has a secret: he’s the Green Ninja. He and his friends, who are also secret ninja, constantly save the city from Garmadon. One day, during a battle, something goes wrong and a terrible monster is unleashed on the city. Led by Master Wu (Jackie Chan), Lloyd, and his friends must undertake a perilous journey and learn to trust the power within themselves.

Will my kids like it?
If they liked The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman movie, they’ll like it. (Although I do think this one is the weakest of the three movies, it’s still pretty good.) If they watched LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu or play with any of the toys, they’ll like it. If they’re LEGO fans at all, they will like it.

Will I like it?
Oh, I think you will. This movie is a love letter to ’80s movies, especially ’80s martial arts movies. The film frames the animated story with a live action story about a bullied little boy who — clutching his Lloyd minifig — wanders into a curio shop run by an Mr. Miyagi-like man (played by Chan, which is delightful, but will make you feel old). Like Peter Falk in The Princess Bride, Chan then tells the little boy the Legend of Ninjago. There are a number of other clever references to both the ’80s and martial arts movie tropes, so if you were sentient in the ’80s, you will be entertained.

Any sex/adult language/violence?
No sex (beyond Garmadon pretending to make out with himself, which is really pretty tame). The langauge is fine. It’s a ninja movie, so there is plenty of violence, but it’s bloodless Lego violence and is played for laughs.

When should we take a bathroom break?
After the fight on the bridge between Master Wu and Garmadon, the kids end up carrying Garmadon through the woods in a cage. While the dialogue in this scene is entertaining, it’s not really necessary to the plot of the movie, and it’s long enough for you and your kid to run out of the theater, hit the restroom, and get back in time for more action.

Any difficult issues I’m going to have to talk to my kids about?
You may want to address the issue of whitewashing in U.S. martial art films. The LEGO Ninjago Movie is building on its own franchise and on a tradition of American martial arts films and cartoons, but it’s worth mentioning that this is a film about ninja, filled with Asian imagery, and set in a Tokyo-esque city, but the lead character is a blond guy named Lloyd voiced by Dave Franco.

While the voice cast is diverse, and some of the characters have Asian names, the only Asian actor who appears to be cast is Chan. (UPDATE: A reader corrected me here. Kumail Nanjiani,  Fred Armisen, and Olivia Munn are all of Asian descent.)

Are women well-represented in this film?
This film does slightly better with roles for women than The LEGO Movie and LEGO Batman in that rather than one prominent female character, there are two. There is no romance plot, which is refreshing, but both characters are cast in fall in the same Wyldstyle Strong Female Character mold that LEGO uses for all its female characters.

If you’re a mom and you’re watching this, you might have some complicated feelings about the depictions of Koko, Lloyd’s mother. I know I do. But that’s another blog post.

My kid has a disability. Anything I should be worried about?
If your child is sensitive to or triggered by flashing lights, you may want to skip this movie, which pays homage to the martial arts movies of the ’80s and has two intense flashing-screen sequences. (Those come immediately after the words “ultimate weapon” and “ultimate-ultimate weapon” are uttered.) Also the credit sequence at the end has sort of a pulsing animation thing going on.

Should I bother staying to the very end of the credits?
Early in the credits there’s a live-action Jackie Chan outtake sequence. Feel free to to go home after that.

When does it come out?
The LEGO Ninjago Movie will be in theaters on September 22.

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