A dominating presence in the 90s, revitalized with an animated film in 2007 and a Nickelodeon series beginning in 2012, the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” have come out of their shells once again with this semi-triumphant return to the big screen. On the heels of a fourth “Transformers” and TNT’s “The Last Ship”, The Summer of Michael Bay continues with this franchise reboot, which he produced.
For a change, Megan Fox actually gives a believable performance as NYC TV reporter April O’Neil. For the first twenty minutes or so, “Ninja Turtles” plays like “an aspiring reporter who wants more out of her job and career” comedy. The set-up, however, is clumsy and awkward, mostly due to Will Arnett, who is completely miscast and unfunny as April’s cameraman Vernon. Only when we are formally re-introduced to the giant green crime-fighting reptiles, does “Ninja Turtles” begin to move at a faster pace.
As the story goes, Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Leonardo (voiced by “Jackass” star Johnny Knoxville) have been living and learning, in a NYC sewer, under the watchful eye of their master – the wise old rat Splinter (voiced by Tony Shaloub). How they came to be is one of the new and more interesting elements to this otherwise thin Pizza-crust of a story. Once they meet April, the Turtles’ main goal is to protect her and save the city from the evil Shredder and his henchmen, who have a plan to gain control of New York and the entire world with a poison gas.
While not as “cute” as some of their previous versions, these CGI Turtles look very realistic (if there were actual 6 ft. talking, fighting turtles). And their dialogue is quite good, just what you’d expect from four teenagers living, working and playing together (think One Direction as reptiles). The traditional fast-paced, aggressive style of the Turtles is alive and well here. A sequence in which the Turtles, April and Vernon attempt to escape from the bad guys by taking a short-cut down a snow-covered mountain, is the most impressive and entertaining of the entire movie.
Bay’s brand of visuals and sound effects are everywhere in “Ninja Turtles”, complete with his trademark over-use of slow-motion. And after wanting to be in a “Turtles” movie for decades, Whoopi Goldberg finally gets her chance in a small role as April’s news director.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is rated PG-13 for some sci-fi action/violence and peril. There are some scary moments for young fans of the Nick animated series, but it’s safe for kids 11 and up. Could this have been more fun? Absolutely. And coming off of “Guardians of the Galaxy”, it falls way short in comparison. But for fans of these semi-iconic characters, especially the young ones, this is a harmless, though forgettable, effort.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” gets a C+.