Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Things To Do

Poorly assembled 'Lego Ninjago Movie' waters down Lego movie franchise

Well, that didn't take long.

After only three movies, the Lego franchise is already a shadow of its original self, less irreverent and go-for-broke bricky. The watering down of an ingenious formula comes with The Lego Ninjago Movie, the sort we expected all along from plastic construction toys.

Everything was awesome in 2014's The Lego Movie, a high-wire risk paying off with a new look in computer animation based on Lego's interlocking design. The Lego Ninjago Movie hasn't abandoned that uniqueness but certainly reins it in.

Fewer backgrounds utilize the malleable brick effect, opting for typical CGI trappings. The original even turned oceans into rolling squares; here the water is a computer-drawn yawn. The first movie brought an element of surprise. Now the surprise is that there are none.

Lego Ninjago is a toy and animation branch based on Asian action genres and those inspired by them, from medieval martial arts to Pacific Rim's Jaeger bots. The island of Ninjago is protected by six color-coded teenage power rangers — excuse me, ninjas — from evil warlord Garmadon (voice of Justin Theroux), who's like Darth Trump, literally firing generals from his volcano lair.

Ninjas keep their identities secret. The green one is Lloyd (Dave Franco), whom everyone at school knows is Garmadon's son, making him amusingly unpopular. His protective mother Koko (Olivia Munn) and Garmadon have a simple-except-it's-toys history, with revelations slowing down the third act.

Garmadon's latest attack on Ninjago sends Lloyd to Master Wu (Jackie Chan), who speaks of an Ultimate Weapon that could defeat the warlord but is too dangerous to use. Turns out it's a laser pointer that summons Meowsra, the funniest sight gag in the entire movie. Meowsra is a live action cat demolishing the sets while chasing the little red dot. Godzilla help me, it's overused but funny every time.

Lloyd's strained relationship with Garmadon is the screenplay's most consistently developed element, with Franco and Theroux doing funny work. Stretching the Skywalker dynamic to its silliest extreme, there's a wistful edge to what is essentially mocking child abandonment. It's funny in a grownup way that likely sailed over most kids' heads at a recent screening.

Children seemed content with various uses of the word "butt" and action sequences that could pass for Transformers outtakes. That's what happens to the Lego look when the action demands pulling back the camera for scope.

There's an irregular rhythm to The Lego Ninjago Movie, possibly due to six screenwriters and three directors stirring the pot. Amusing ideas can spring from committee but are seldom executed well by one. The Lego Movie was crafted as if there would never be another. Whatever the franchise targets next, my best advice is going back to square one.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

Comments
Roseanne overdosed on opioids and left ‘The Conners’ behind. It’s better this way.

Roseanne overdosed on opioids and left ‘The Conners’ behind. It’s better this way.

BC's The Conners, a retitled reboot of a revival, made its return Tuesday night with the now widely known news that its main character, Roseanne Conner, had recently died in her sleep at the sitcom family's home in Lanford, Illinois, a small town tha...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Dr. BBQ opens to the public today. Here’s a look.

Dr. BBQ opens to the public today. Here’s a look.

ST. PETERSBURGDr. BBQ needed a beer. Mission accomplished: A sip of Green Bench’s Dr. BBQ Pale Lager dispatched, he was ready to start the tour. See that teal tufted couch against that wall? It’s like something from Girl & the Goat in Chicago. The wo...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Sports on TV/radio for Wednesday, October 17

TODAYBaseball playoffsNLCS: Brewers at Dodgers5 p.m.FS1ALCS: Red Sox at Astros8:30 p.m.TBS; 620-AMCollege volleyballMississippi State at Alabama7 p.m.ESPNUSouth Carolina at Arkansas8 p.m.SECKansas at Kansas State9 p.m.ESPNUGolfLPGA Senior Championshi...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Cross-Bay Ferry returns Nov. 1 with lower prices and later voyages

Cross-Bay Ferry returns Nov. 1 with lower prices and later voyages

The Cross-Bay Ferry returns Nov. 1 with lower ticket prices and voyages that sail later for dinner-time and evening-out trips to Tampa and St. Petersburg.One-way fares will be $8 for adults — $2 less than during the ferry’s first season two years ago...
Published: 10/16/18
SoundBytes: Dr. Dog, Marc Anthony, Natasha Leggero, the Revivalists and more

SoundBytes: Dr. Dog, Marc Anthony, Natasha Leggero, the Revivalists and more

— Alt-rockers Dr. Dog are coming to the Orpheum on March 1, with the Nude Party opening. Tickets are $20 and up. Click here.— Another good alt-rock show coming up next spring: The Revivalists on April 5. Click here.— Marc Anthony is...
Published: 10/16/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Oct. 17

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Oct. 17

The Play That Goes Wrong: What would happen if Sherlock Holmes and Monty Python had a Broadway baby? This musical comedy. Produced by J.J. Abrams on Broadway, it won the Tony for its intricate set design. 7:30 p.m., Carol Morsani Hall at the Straz Ce...
Published: 10/16/18
Hurricane Michael how to help: Donation drives in the Tampa Bay area

Hurricane Michael how to help: Donation drives in the Tampa Bay area

Having been spared the worst of Hurricane Michael, the Tampa Bay area is reaching out with donation drives. But first, some advice. Major relief organizations urge people to donate cash instead of items that might not be of use and can create logisti...
Published: 10/16/18
Hey, NPR geeks: ‘Science Friday’ is coming to Tampa

Hey, NPR geeks: ‘Science Friday’ is coming to Tampa

Ready for some “brain fun for curious people," live on stage? Science Friday, one of NPR’s most popular radio shows and podcasts, is coming to Tampa Theatre on Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. for a live show with host Ira Flatow.Tampa’s NPR affil...
Published: 10/16/18
Experience Hendrix Tour: Joe Satriani, Dave Mustaine, more coming to Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater

Experience Hendrix Tour: Joe Satriani, Dave Mustaine, more coming to Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater

Someday, somehow, we can all probably expect a Jimi Hendrix hologram to head out on tour, right?Until that day comes, the next best thing is the Experience Hendrix Tour, which has become a spring staple at Ruth Eckerd Hall. The tour will return to Cl...
Published: 10/16/18
Steve Martin's 'The Underpants' opens at Stage West

Steve Martin's 'The Underpants' opens at Stage West

Theater roundup for the North Suncoast
Published: 10/16/18