Genre: Action and Adventure
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Cast: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek
Release Date: August 8th, 2014
Cowabunga, web dude.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have returned to the big screen in a goofy, viagra light-hearted and highly-watchable film that embraces the four brothers that those who grew up with the original trilogy know so well. The pack of turtles is joined by their master Splinter and their nemesis Shredder in this reboot of sorts that never takes itself (or its premise) seriously.
For those unfamiliar with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon or the film series, the four turtles the title refers to are crime-fighting human-sized turtles living in the sewers of New York City who were the results of genetic mutations years earlier. The quirky quartet here have girls, pizza and fighting bad guys on the brain. Not surprising. They are teenagers, after all.
Splinter (played by Danny Woodburn but voiced by Tony Shalhoub), a fully-grown rat, is the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the team and serves as their wise father figure. In terms of the group dynamic, Leonardo (played by Pete Ploszek but voiced by Johnny Knoxville) is the leader on specific missions while Donatello (Jeremy Howard) is the computer-savvy and sometimes nerdy one. Raphael (Alan Ritchson) is the more serious one and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) is the goofy one, who often feels like the younger brother of the whole squad.
Here (as in the stories beforehand), they are teamed up with an aspiring young journalist named April O’Neil (Megan Fox). April isn’t the draw of a feature like this—the turtles are— but the writing team here (Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec and Evan Daugherty) recognizes that and subtly mocks Fox’s reputation for serving as eye candy in generic blockbuster films (like in the Transformers series). April is a lightweight reporter who is forced to focus on superficial stories. “There are fat pigs… there are no fat birds,” an intense trainer tells her before she’s forced to cover a simplistic story which features Fox jumping up and down on a trampoline (hey, at least the writers are mocking their own not-so-subtle agenda).
Additional characters here include April’s no-nonsense editor Bernadette (Whoopi Goldberg) her overtly-friendly work colleague Vernon (Will Arnett) and the monstrous Shredder (Tohoru Masamune), who has a plan to rule the Big Apple and kill many of its residents.
Thankfully though, the turtles themselves are given the focus here and their loveable banter suggests that these characters are actually brothers. Like brothers, they all know their sibling’s shortcomings and flaws and yet they embrace the team mentality that keeps them going on mission after mission. And, in a surprisingly-effective choice, these teens are extremely pop culture savvy. If they are not throwing around references to superheroes like Spiderman and Superman, they are joking about their own superhero antics (“He’s doing his Batman voice,” one says when another one adopts a deep cadence to disguise their identity.)
Visually, the make-up for the turtles is a little off-putting and intense and so is Shredder’s outfit. For those of us used to the generic make-up from the 90s films, the get up here suggests that the movie wants to be more serious than it actually is. Otherwise, the characters remain as funny and thrilling as they all once were and the plot— as generic and predictable as it may be— does enough to keep the audiences interested and laughing at this unlucky group of mutant heroes.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtlescould’ve been a monstrous cinematic misfire. Instead, it’s a fun and carefree adventure that is one of the nicest surprises of the summer.
Review by: John Hanlon