The 4 things you should know about ‘THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE’

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Dave Franco voices “Lloyd/ The Green Ninja” in THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE. Courtesy of Warner Brothers Animation.

Courtney Howard // Film Critic

The wonderful world of Lego is an expansive universe where each property inhabits a distinct space. However, there’s one thing remains the constant: the creative imagination of the master-builders powering it all. Director Charlie Bean’s THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE, in particular, brilliantly mimics children’s play patterns, harnessing them into an effervescent, hilarious and poignant story about a fractured family.

Lloyd (voiced by Dave Franco) yearns to connect to his narcissistic deadbeat dad Garmadon (voiced by Justin Theroux), which is nearly impossible given he’s the city’s villain, a.k.a. “the worst guy in the history of the world.” A battle for the city erupts – one that draws Lloyd and his fellow secret ninja warrior pals together to fight off Garmadon’s evil forces threatening to destroy the mega-metropolis. Through the martial arts teachings of Master Wu (voiced by Jackie Chan), the squad is forced to check their egos in order to discover their latent inner powers – and more about Garmadon’s past.

At the film’s recent press conference held at Legoland, the filmmakers and celebrity voices shared a few fun facts with us.

Dave Franco voices “Llyod/ The Green Ninja” and Justin Theroux voices “Garmadon” in THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE. Courtesy of Warner Brothers Animation.

4. Empathy is taught and cultivated through character. The film’s core (and subtle) message is about changing one’s point of view – a helpful coping mechanism now taught in schools. Bean elucidated, “Lloyd was going through something where he was of a kid mind – he was selfish. He looks at his relationship with his father one way – that his father is a problem to solve. He goes through a change because he starts to look at his dad through a different point of view. We wanted him to look at things from a different point of view because that’s his heart – going from a child where you’re not sympathetic towards other people or empathetic. Empathy is a big part of understanding other human beings. The idea of sympathizing what dad went through is a big part of his change.” Producer Chris McKay added, “It spreads throughout the whole film, where they’re solving their problems. You have a much greater power inside you and to look at the problems you’re facing in a different way. Even Garmadon goes through the same thing.”

Justin Theroux voices “Garmadon” in THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE. Courtesy of Warner Brothers Animation.

3. The origin of Garmadon’s voice. Not only did Theroux come up with the mispronunciation of Lloyd, as “La-Lloyd,” he also was the only one to disguise his voice in the recording booth. Olivia Munn, who voices La-Lloyd’s mom/ Garmadon’s ex-flame Koko, said, “We were using our real voices, but Justin came up with a voice. We were at dinner [last night] and we were like, ‘Wait. Should we have been doing a voice too?!’ You’re usually doing this in your own bubble and making these choices. I shoulda had a voice. I shoulda been British or something!” Theroux said, “It kind of fell off the truck. We were playing around. We knew he was going to have a bigger voice, but we fooled around. We started with the scenes where I’d have to be screaming over the noise. And then in the scenes with La-Lloyd, I’d have to be more sinister.”

Justin Theroux voices “Garmadon” and Jackie Chan voices “Master Wu” in THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE. Courtesy of Warner Brothers Animation.

2. The practice of martial arts techniques is good for all audiences. Chan said, “Martial arts is a good exercise. You can do it for your brain, for your health, for everything! When you know what you are, it effects everybody. It’s a good sport.” Ultimately he was very pleased how the animators captured it, though did jokingly rib, “I don’t know why they just hired me for the voice.” He later added, “It has a lot of good message and teach children how to be good and respect everything.”

“Meowthra” in THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE. Courtesy of Warner Brothers Animation.

1.“Meowthra” hijacks the entire movie. Do you love cats? Do you love giant monster movies? Well then, NINJAGO’s got something special (and adorable) for you! A four-legged, many-whiskered feline furball named “Meowthra.” This weapon of mass destruction rampages the city of Ninjago. As the citizens are rendered powerless, the green ninja, of course, steps up to the plate to defeat her. For cat-owners, it should come as no surprise that she was quite the diva on set. Bean said, “The kitty is in Australia and will not answer to any other name than, ‘Meowthra.’ The cat was an amazing performer – it’s actually two cats. They were identical twins. We worked with one of the cats in the morning and it would get tired and then we’d bring in the other cat.”

THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE opens on September 22.

About author

Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.