Back in May of 2010, after hearing that the “Wrecker of Childhoods”, Michael Bay, aka Bayhem, was overseeing the reboot of the beloved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, the world collectively clenched their proverbial butt cheeks together and prayed for the news to be a cruel April Fool’s joke. In February of 2012, Joe Leibesman (Battle of Los Angeles) was chosen over Brett Ratner (Responsible for Every Horrible Movie EVER) in a battle of the low expectation / low reward directors! Oh man, the pulse of the world was reaching nuclear levels! This film was critically and publicly dismissed before frame one was filmed. Fast forward four years, the finished product has finally reached theaters and the critical pitchforks have sprouted like a GMO infused hemp seed. Surely this film will be the bile we’ve destined it to be! Surely when all is said and done we will have our retribution on Michael Bay for another childhood memory destroyed! But the result of watching the film has produced a different response altogether and I have to say….it was a response very much unexpected. I actually liked the film! Good Lord someone cleanse me from this dirty feeling!
These Ninja Turtles are definitely not the Ninja Turtles of the past. Started in 1984 as a parody to the superheroes of the time, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created these four unlikely heroes and turned them into household names. Over the years the characters went on to spawn a cartoon series, a trilogy of feature films in the 90’s and a legion of hardcore fans screaming the phrase, “Cowabunga Dude!” The characters looks have changed substantially over the years and the newest incarnation has some fans scratching their heads, but change can be good right?! Let’s put it another way, the facade has changed but the spirit remains alive. And that’s where we find our hero’s in a half shell. Let’s call them Turtles 4.0.
New York City has been overrun with crime from a mysterious crime organization called the Foot Clan under the leadership of Master Shredder (Tohoru Masamune). Reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) has been tracking down leads on the activities of this crime syndicate and trying to find the story she needs to break her into the big time. Along comes a group of vigilantes whom begins stopping crimes from the Foot Clan and peak the interest of Ms. O’Neil. As she tries to track down information on the mysterious group of heroes, she witnesses the Foot Clan being trounced by these vigilantes who just so happen to look like 6 foot karate fighting turtles. Of course, knowing no one will believe her without proof, O’Neil comes face to face with Leonardo (moves by Pete Ploszek, voice by Johnny Knoxville), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) and Raphael (Alan Ritchson) and her suspicions are confirmed…they are Ninja Turtles!
But there’s something way too familiar about these four to April. As she remembers back to her childhood, a memory of her scientist father’s work with billionaire industrialist Eric Sacks (William Fichtner), who’s experiments on genetic mutants wielded interesting results as it turns out. After a fire in the lab, April rescued four turtles and a rat, Splinter (Tony Shalhoub), and helped them flee to the sewers of New York, but what would become of them would be something that she could not have imagined. Now reunited, the group of allies must band together to stop Shredder and the Foot Clan from unleashing a deadly terrorist attack on New York City all while trying to conceal their identities.
Director Joe Leibesman’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is bonkers. It’s your childhood TMNT’s hopped up on steroids. It’s action packed and full of CGI, It’s full of humor and heart and damnit it’s fun! But this doesn’t mean that it’s GOOD. Far from it. The film is geared towards young children to reboot these characters for a new generation, no denying this fact, but the filmmaker tried to keep some of the elements of the past turtle incarnations to not alienate all of the die hard fans. Did they succeed? Hard to tell. There are some fun nods and the wise cracking ways of the turtles is still vibrantly present, but there’s a lot to be desired about this new look for those who grew up with these characters.
The acting is not overly horrible. Megan Fox is surprisingly not as annoying as I expected her to be. Her character remained as much in the background as she should be and offered a nice complimentary piece to the CGI turtles. Will Arnett was enjoyable as the overly cliche wise-cracking camera man but there are times where I think the scripting was a little too watered down for even Arnett‘s taste. A times he seemed a little underwhelmed by the experience and it showed in his performance. The vocal work and the motion capture actors really did a fine job with the script they were given and the humor and action was superb, but the show stealer of this movie was definitely William Fichtner. The acting veteran really elevated the role of his villain in the shadows from a role that could have been completely over the top into one that was believable and superbly acted.
Overall, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a fun filled action packed joy ride that will entertain family members of all ages and will hopefully bring a much need boost to a franchise that has been on life support for the better part of a decade.
Stars: 2 1/2 out of 5