TEENAGE MUNTANT NINJA TURTLES
Author: J.A. Hyde
August 8, 2014

SYNOPSIS: The city needs heroes. Darkness has settled over New York City as Shredder and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future is grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise from the sewers and discover their destiny as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Turtles must work with fearless reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox) and her wise-cracking cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) to save the city and unravel Shredder's diabolical plan.

Those crazy teenage turtles are back!

Yes, they’re mutants and ninjas, too, but most of all, they’re teenagers. Actually, the scenes when they’re talking like teens are the best ones. They’re certainly the funniest. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is billed as a science fiction action comedy, which may explain why it’s sort of a mess, plot-wise. Before I say anything else, I should probably note that the preview audience loved it. Even though it’s rated PG13, there were at least 100 kids under 13 in the audience. After the film, they were pretend karate chopping and kicking away. Many were wearing Turtle logo clothing, and one boy in particular, who appeared to be around 8 years old, was brutalizing his teddy bear with ninja moves.

The beautiful, but vacant, Megan Fox plays the turtles’ human ally, TV reporter April O’Neil. She is hampered by very slow movements, even slower dialogue, and unfortunate hot pink lipstick. Will Arnett plays her cameraman Vernon Fenwick, and I’d be willing to bet that he improvised many of his lines because they’re better and funnier than the rest of the script. William Fichtner plays Eric Sacks, fake good guy who’s really in league with villain Shredder (Tohoru Masamune). Fichtner, who usually turns in skillful performances, doesn’t make Sacks nearly menacing enough. He seems not to take the role seriously, which makes me wonder why he accepted it.

The turtles, filmed in motion-capture suits, are played by Alan Richson (Raphael), Noel Fischer (Michelangelo), Jeremy Howard (Donatello), and Pete Ploszelc (Leonardo) but voiced by Johnny Knoxville. Their adoptive dad/sensei rat Splinter is played by Danny Woodburn, but voiced by Tony Shaloub. Whoopi Goldberg has a small and unimportant role as Bernadette Thompson, April and Vernon’s boss at Channel 6, and Shredder’s next-in-command, Karai, is played by Minae Noji.

Even if you’re totally unfamiliar with the mythology behind the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, there is plenty of exposition to explain it. In fact, the film begins with a graphics and voice-over prologue explaining their origin and relationships. Unfortunately, the preview film malfunctioned for about the first 30 seconds, so we just had voice-over for a while. The plot is of little consequence, and if you’re an adult, you’re going to notice the inconsistencies. Since you know the turtles won’t be killed, the only suspense comes from wondering how they’ll escape when captured and how they’ll defeat the heavily armored Shredder. I’ll leave that to you to discover should you decide to go to the film.

I’m mystified as to why this film wasn’t edited to be PG since most of its fans are going to be under 13. The action scenes aren’t that clear anyway, and fewer explosions would have lessened the intensity for younger viewers. There is one disturbing that could have been toned down as well. Still, they all seemed to like it anyway, and I definitely heard a number of adult voices saying “Yeah!” when the turtles kicked some a**. Only true turtle fans are going to enjoy this one. - JoAnne Hyde

GRADE: C


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