The LEGO Ninjago Movie

Opening Friday, Sep. 22

The latest LEGO flick is what skeptics initially feared the franchise would be, before Phil Lord and Christopher Miller elevated The LEGO Movie into something witty and poignant. Charlie Bean applies his safe Cartoon Network sensibility to this spinoff about young ninjas protecting the land of Ninjago. Each ninja embodies an earth elementfire, water, lightning, etc.and offers little character development. The exception is Lloyd Garmadon, the Green Ninja, whose life is complicated by the fact that his estranged father, Lord Garmadon, is Ninjago’s would-be conqueror. (Basically, imagine walking around high school with the name “Lloyd bin Laden.”) After he unwittingly unleashes a live-action cat named Meowthra, contrivance joins the ninjas with Lord Garmadon on a quest concocted by sensei Master Wu (Jackie Chan) for “the ultimate, ultimate weapon.” But it’s just a Star Wars-esque device to help Lloyd find the good in his father. We’re left to make do with weak puns, weary pop-culture references, and a waning sense of discovery.