Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Cast:
Megan Fox as April O’Neil
Will Arnett as Vernon Fenwick
William Fichtner as Eric Sacks
Alan Ritchson as Raphael
Noel Fisher as Michelangelo
Pete Ploszek as Leonardo
Johnny Knoxville as Leonardo (voice)
Jeremy Howard as Donatello
Danny Woodburn as Splinter
Tony Shalhoub as Splinter (voice)
Tohoru Masamune as Shredder
Whoopi Goldberg as Bernadette Thompson
Minae Noji as Karai
Abby Elliott as Taylor

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman

Summary:
Fun CG characters and cool action make “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” a film worth checking out for pre-teen boys, fans of the Turtles, and action movie fans. Everyone else should probably skip it.

Story:
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is based on the comic by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.

April O’Neil is a fluff reporter for New York City’s Channel 6, but she longs to be a hard-hitting investigative reporter. When the Foot Clan begins terrorizing the city, she sees her opportunity to advance, but as April accidentally stumbles upon a Foot Clan robbery, she sees the unexpected. She encounters the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Injected with a mutagenic formula at Sacks laboratories, the turtles became strong and intelligent, but after an attack on the labs by the Foot Clan, the turtles and lab rat Splinter found themselves released into the sewers. There they grew up, began to speak, fall in love with pop culture, and train in the martial arts.

Secretly fighting the Foot Clan, the TMNT are faced with exposure now that April knows about them, but they will have bigger problems when the Foot Clan’s leader, Shredder, finds out about their existence.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.

What Worked:
I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting much from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” I’ve been burned by Michael Bay too many times with “Transformers” to expect much better. And while he’s only producing this time around, I still wasn’t hopeful. But to my surprise, I actually found it somewhat entertaining.

The best thing about this film is the execution of the Turtles themselves. The designs are a great new rendering of the characters. The CG for them is really well done. Their action is impressive. But while they are technically beautiful, their personalities are what draw you to them. They are pretty funny. They love videos of cats playing pianos. They try to unsuccessfully sneak stuff past their father. They love music and pop culture references. Even their lone fart joke, I’m embarrassed to say, does draw a chuckle. In a summer filled with fantastic CG characters, these guys do hold their own.

As for the villains, Shredder has never been more intimidating than he is here. With his martial arts combined with a robotic suit that shoots blades, he’s pretty cool and a legitimate threat to our heroes. The action scenes and fights here are worthy of a summer popcorn flick. If you love action, this is worth checking out. I also saw this film in 3D and it helped enhance the action a lot. Blades flew out of the screen. Turtles were flying through the air. And when they have a battle on top of a skyscraper, you get a real sense of height. If you like 3D, you’ll want to pay the extra money for this.

As for the rest of the cast, they mainly fill in between the scenes with the turtles. I’m not a big fan of Megan Fox, but she does an adequate job here. Her main function is to play the straight woman against the turtles, and she does that well. Will Arnett is better as April’s cameraman Vernon Fenwick. You can tell he’s adding a bit of his own humor into the scenes as he tries to unsuccessfully woo April.

I took my 9-year-old son and 12-year-old son to “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and they both enjoyed it. While they were aware of the Turtles, they had never had any particular interest in them. So despite the fact that this is yet another in a long line of TMNT media, it felt new to them. And though I had seen many of those previous incarnations, I felt this was a pretty good reboot to the series.

What Didn’t Work:
While I loved the CG turtles and the action, I have to admit that there are a ton of issues with this film. For example, as Shredder’s plan unfolded, it seemed very, very familiar. In fact midway through the big finale, my 9-year-old son leaned over to me and said, “This is exactly like what happened in the Spider-Man movie.” And he was right. So if a 9 year old is calling you out on a lack of originality, you’ve got script problems.

Despite plot issues, there are a ton of other issues. The villains lacked depth or any real motivation. The supporting characters are pretty flat. The movie creators seem to think that mountains the size of Everest are within a few miles of New York City. The fact that Splinter decides to make them all ninjas after he finds a martial arts book floating in the sewer is pretty dumb. You can go on and on and on. So if you’re going to get hung up on those kinds of things, this is not a movie you’ll want to see.

The Bottom Line:
If you can forgive the numerous script problems and simply go along for the CG ride, then “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is worth checking out. It’s perfect for kids under 13 (despite the PG-13 rating). I also think die-hard fans of the comics and cartoons will be pleased as well.

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