teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-2014

If you’re a child of the ‘80s and ‘90s, you’re going to ask yourself why exactly are we getting another Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. The better question you should ask yourself in regards to that is, “why not?”

The current era Hollywood is engulfed in is all about remakes, no properties of sheer originality (you can more than likely eschew this argument by hooping up anything non-Batman related by Christopher Nolan). Every summer movie these days is built off a fetish for explosions, for small moments of exposition and development in favor of another set piece getting clobbered and turned into dust. Last week Guardians Of The Galaxy treated us to a centrality of this – which is probably why Marvel is printing up Groot & Rocket Raccoon Halloween costumes by the ton at this point. We’re getting another Ninja Turtles movie (the fifth if you walk back to the awesomely true to the comic 1990 film, the TMNT film in 2007 was completely out of canon) because Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has slowly evolved into one of those generational pieces of pop culture you just pass down.

There’s no linear drive from the original movie to this so we’re basically being entrusted with another reboot of the franchise and get tossed Megan Fox (in typical damsel in distress mode for 80 of the film’s 101-minute runtime) as April O’Neil, a plucky reporter from Channel 6 News who makes every journalism major feel just as cynical and bleak about their job perspectives. “I spent four years in journalism school to cover pilates?” Yes, and then your next story will be the ”Allegedly” kid.

O’Neil is in search of the hard story, the one that will eventually make her career and validate her choice of becoming a journalist but all that immediately gets shut down as crazy by her boss Whoopi Goldberg who winds up firing her when she brings up that the vigilantes fighting back against the Foot Clan are four 6-foot turtles. Why does no one ever believe the cute woman when she makes crazy demands and uses phone technology to prove her points? Even with proof and research into her childhood, we learn that the four turtles, Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo & Raphael were her pets as well as Splinter, their sensei and mouse who thanks to a mutagen created by her father and Eric Sacks (William Fitchner) wind up growing and becoming in O’Neil’s garbled up explanation, “Ninja, Teenage, Mutant, Turtles”.

Naturally the film progresses as you would expect it to as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles doesn’t try to be anything more than a mindless live-action cartoon with plenty of one-liners, quips that remind you that the turtles are millennials just like us and some Michael Bay isms thrown in for good measure. Critics have already been quick to lampoon the film just because Bay is a producer and the director Jonathan Liebesman is definitely doing his best to pay homage to Bay in certain shots and angles. A lot of the action, including the big extended sequence while the turtles are chasing the Foot Clan on a mountain slope have Bay’s fingerprints written all over it and even if Liebsman has a history of directing big budgeted CGI homages (Wrath Of The Titans, Battle Los Angeles), he’s yet to find a trademarked style yet. Either that or we’ve been programming by Bay’s take on the action film for so damn long it feels like whoever associated with him is doing a masturbatory homage.

The main crux of the film, as it always was set to be were the Turtles, their interplay and how when it comes down to it – how they’ve been teenagers who can be easily moved by pizza (seriously, Splinter offers 98-cheese pizza from Pizza Hut). When they get pumped with adrenaline during one scene, they act like kids on a massive sugar rush. Leonardo may be the leader but he’s just as silly as geeky Donatello and constantly trying to be hip Mikey. Only Raphael, who even jokingly makes a reference to watching Batman (aka the sort of goofy reason the series even exists in the first place) maintains being an outright badass throughout.

And that’s what Turtles was supposed to be. Shredder to look like a legit boss and a mechanized suit for him to make him even more of a blood thirsty samurai hell bent on restoring glory. The only character that didn’t seem to find a groove was Will Arnett, who didn’t seem like he was doing Bay’s typical lech character until mid-way in the film (or at least make it recognizable). Either it was the laziest Glenn Quagmire impersonation from the usually funny and on Arnett or he noticed that he could mail it in.

Turtles will infuriate critics who will constantly look for something more in every movie and fan boys who will see Michael Bay’s name and retch. The 2014 film, when you consider how the franchise hit a low-point with that 1993 third film is probably the second best Turtles movie, at least from a flat out action standpoint.

It’s corny at times; the Turtles alien look will eventually win you over (HGH for the win), the storyline doesn’t try to be too ambitious and remains conventional. It’s a perfectly acceptable movie that kids are going to soak up. Which is what Turtles exactly was in 1990. You know, before the silliness really kicked in.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned) for sci-fi action violence. Starring Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fitcher, Johnny Knoxville, ** 1/2 out of ****