Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a popular animated TV series from the ’80s that keeps getting the film treatment. From its first adaptation in 1990, we’ve seen several attempts at a quintessential Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film. While there’s no clear front runner, its been a case of hit-and-run for studios exhuming one nostalgic franchise after another.
So it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise, when it was announced that blockbuster juggernaut, Michael Bay, was set to reboot the troubled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with a “live-action” adaptation. The problem with a live-action version of TMNT has always been the balance of reality and fantasy. Selling the premise of four toxic masked humanoid amphibians brandishing ninja weaponry to protect New York City is a feat in itself.
Wrath of the Titans and Battle Los Angeles director, Jonathan Liebesman, is no stranger to making reality out of unreality. He’s dealt with Greek mythology, aliens and even The Tooth Fairy. So making the jump to sewer-surfing vigilante turtles was not unthinkable, especially when you have Mr. Transfomers giving you the keys to the Shellraiser.
The new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles works mostly because never it never takes itself too seriously. We journey with a budding reporter as she covers a story about a burgeoning sci-tech company, a band of unusual heroes, a villain and his evil Foot Clan, and the underground battle for New York City.
“COWABUNGA, RADICAL, BODACIOUS, GNARLY, SHELLACIOUS, TUBULAR DUDES!”
While they’ve injected some Dark Knight cold fusion into the design and bloodstream of the production, everyone’s in on the joke. Okay, everyone, except Megan Fox and Shredder. There’s plenty of wink-wink stuff going on and it’s actually surprisingly funny, mostly thanks to Michelangelo’s ability to turn everything into a game and Will Arnett’s foot-in-mouth ego.
Unfortunately, while picture perfect, Megan Fox isn’t right for the part of April O’Neal. She’s dolled up to the point that we wouldn’t be surprised to find out her performance was rendered along with those of the turtles. She’s angelic, but the role would’ve benefited from a Kat Dennings or Emma Stone, someone more grounded and warm.
Will Arnett knows how to find funny in the despicable and gives us a van-driving character Mr. T would call “fool”. Vernon’s insecurities and attempts to romance April, provide the perfect fall guy, and we enjoy laughing at Arnett’s exploits. It’s amusing to find his counterpoint, Eric Sacks, is played by William Fichtner, who you’re half-expecting to be his long lost brother.
The turtles seem over-sized from the outset, but you do get used to their new shape and form. Just as they have their own distinct personalities, the ninja turtles even look different to each other, in terms of personal style and size. Splinter isn’t quite as convincing, like a reformed rodent of unusual size from The Princess Bride and Shredder seems to be more inspired by Ken Watanabe’s robot character, Drift, inTransformers: Age of Extinction.
As you’d expect from a Michael Bay-produced film, there’s loads of action. The quick pacing keeps us from dissecting how ridiculous it all is and the blistering action set pieces are Fast and Furious enough to keep us entertained. The story is pretty standard as far as superhero movies go, taking it from April O’Neal’s journalistic perspective to give it more credibility as her involvement gives the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a spokesperson.
The driving force is fun and peril in this tongue-in-cheek action blockbuster. Instead of trying to substantiate their back story in real science and steep the tone in dark grit, we’re asked to laugh at and roll with it. While a little inconsistent in quality and distanced by a cold, beauty queen, there are enough laughs and explosive A-Team style action sequences to deliver perfectly enjoyable, albeit mind-numbing, escapism.
The bottom line: Quick-fire
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