Mission Lab 2018

REVIEW: Is ‘The Lego Ninjago Movie’ family-friendly? (And are there any scary parts?)

A humorous story that promotes fatherhood? That’s definitely a thumbs up.

September 23rd, 2017 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: Is ‘The Lego Ninjago Movie’ family-friendly? (And are there any scary parts?)

Lloyd is just an average high school teenager trying to find his place in life. Except that, well, his life is anything but average.

When he’s not at school or at home, he’s the Green Ninja, a masked character who teams up with a cadre of other ninjas within the Secret Ninja Force to protect their beautiful home city of Ninjago. Their main nemesis is Garmadon, a strange-looking and bombastic villain who lives across the sea on a volcano island and who regularly leads his army of evildoers to invade Ninjago.

The ever-confident ninjas always repel Garmadon, but lately he has been growing more determined and more cunning. Is it possible that Ninjago will soon fall?   

Oh yeah, did we mention that Lloyd is the son Garmadon never knew and that Garmadon hasn’t seen him since he was merely a few months old?

It may sound like a soap opera, but it’s at the heart of The Lego Ninjago Movie (PG), which opens in theaters this weekend and is the third release in the Lego film franchise. It also is the first movie based on an original Lego property.

It stars Dave Franco (21 Jump Street) as Lloyd, Justin Theroux (The Girl on the Train) as Garmadon, and Jackie Chan (Rush Hour) as Lloyd’s teacher, Master Wu.

Like the first two Lego films, Ninjago combines a series of solid life lessons with plenty of age-appropriate humor that will have even mom and dad laughing. Still, it’s not perfect. Let’s examine the details.

Warning: Spoilers!

Violence/Disturbing Images

Minimal. We see several Lego-style, bloodless battle scenes and ninja fights. One major Lego character loses his right arm, but it’s reattached. The ninjas find themselves in a graveyard with skeletons and in a couple of dark scenes that might frighten very sensitive children.   

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

Minimal. We see a handful of female Lego characters in block-style bikinis. Garamond, who has four arms, turns around and hugs himself while saying, “I look like I’m making out with two people.”  

Coarse Language

None, other than butt (7), oh my gosh (5) and butt dialed (1). Kids around me were laughing a lot at the “butt jokes,” so be prepared.

Other Positive Elements

Lloyd’s mother truly loves her son and tries to protect his emotions when they talk about his father. (They live separately from Garmadon.)

Garmadon and Lloyd reconcile toward the end.

Other Negative Elements

Garmadon’s indifference toward Lloyd, and the pain it causes, can be difficult to watch. Dressed up as the Green Ninja, Lloyd tells Garmadon that he always wanted a father to teach him how to throw a ball, ride bikes and shave. Confused and not knowing who the Green Ninja is, Garmadon makes fun of Lloyd.

When Lloyd’s identity is revealed and he says his absent father ruined his life, Garmadon responds, “How can I ruin your life? I wasn’t even there.” Lloyd replies, “I wish you weren’t my father.”

Life Lessons

The best animated films have a theme and provide solid life lessons. Thankfully, The Lego Ninjago Movie does all that, giving us a story about the importance of fatherhood and reminding us it’s never too late to redeem lost time. It also tosses us lessons about regret and forgiveness, and about choosing the right path in life.    

Worldview

Lego Ninjago takes place within an ancient ninja worldview. That means we are given hints of Buddhist thought, thanks to Master Wu. A ninja’s power, we learn, comes from an energy in all living things, and yet it is “inside of you,” too. This spiritual angle is a minor part of the film, but it might be worth a post-movie discussion.   

Sponsors

McDonald’s will serve Ninjago Happy Meals through Oct. 9.

Family-Friendly?

I took my 9- and 5-year-old kids to this one. With only a few cautions, it’s family-friendly.

What I Liked

It’s truly funny and contains humor aimed at kids and adults (while staying in kid-friendly territory). I heard many parents laughing.  

What I Didn’t Like

I’m not a fan of potty humor. Fewer butt jokes, please.  

Thumbs Up … Or Down?

A humorous story that promotes fatherhood? That’s definitely a thumbs up.

Discussion Questions

  1. Did Lloyd hate his father? Love his father? What led him to reconcile? What helped him forgive his father?
  2. Is it ever too late to make up for lost years? How do we look forward with hope instead of backwards with regret?
  3. Why did Garmadon choose his career over his family? Do you think he had regrets through the years?
  4. What problems in modern society are cause by absent fathers? (And, are there any problems in society not caused by absent fathers?)

Entertainment rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4 out of 5 stars.