Has there ever been a title that more plainly spelled out what you were about to see then Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? I obviously don’t have to waste time telling you the backstory of this flick’s subjects, even if not for the title who doesn’t know the Ninja Turtles? Obviously not a film for the highbrow the first Michael Bay produced revisit to those late 80s/early 90s pop culture icons was nothing if not fun, maybe I should be more precise to say it was nothing more than a little fun…after all, isn’t that what movies like this are about? Well the four green-skinned heroes in a half shell are back in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, a title I will go out of my way to not retype in the rest of this review, and they are bringing every single hallmark of their breakout 90s cartoon with them! Shredder has escaped from custody with the help of Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry), when the teleportation Stockman uses to free Shredder malfunctions he is pulled into Dimension X and is brought face to face with Krang, an anthropomorphic alien brain bent on destroying earth. Krang supplies Shredder with the location of three pieces of alien technology that, when brought together, will be able to teleport Krang’s battle station, The Technodrome, to earth. With the Technodrome, Krang and Shredder will be able to bring the earth to its knees. It’s up to the Turtles, along with April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and corrections officer turned vigilante Casey Jones (Stephen Amell), to stop Shredder and save the world all while the Turtles deal with being, well, mutant Turtles that will never be accepted by the city and world that they help save.
Look, let’s just get right to it, you know from reading the title of the film whether you’re going to like it or not. There’s nothing in this flick to convert anyone who’s not going thinking they’re going to have a good time. That being said, if you were a fan of the Turtles as a kid there’s a far better than average chance you’re going to dig this movie. Almost everything that the first film was lacking in the Turtle lore department has been corrected, this FEELS like the Turtles you remember! Shredder’s super-suit is gone giving way to a much better looking and more familiar outfit. Bebop, Rocksteady, Krang, and the Technodrome are all just about pitch perfect. Following in that vein the feel of the film as a whole is much more in line with what you would expect from TMNT, bright colors, quick action, and juvenile jokes. I suppose it’s a testament to the advancements of CGI (which is noticeably better this time around) that the most charismatic character in the film isn’t even real. Yes, I’m talking about everyone’s favorite, Michelangelo. Obviously he’s the heart of the film’s comedy but what I wasn’t expecting is that he’s actually the films heart itself. Mikey spends a good portion of the movie lamenting his turtlehood, wanting to be human and accepted by the world at large. There’s a particular scene after the Turtles are seen by some humans where Mikey sits trying to understand their reaction. “It wasn’t just fear, it was actual hate” he says of the people who were shouting “They’re Monsters!” at him and his brothers. It’s an oddly powerful moment in the movie with obvious allusions to real-world racism that is completely sold by a 7Ft CGI Turtle. I think this was one of the coolest angles of the film, they managed to work in real world lessons organically without slowing anything down.
The movie does fall short, mostly thanks to its non-CGI characters. Megan Fox does just fine in the role once again, even if her “journalist” is the most Bay-ized portrayal of a female journalist (read: has no problem jumping into a well-placed schoolgirl outfit for a lead) My only complaint there is that she is simply distracting thanks to the odd choices in plastic surgery that give you the impression of something being not quite right that you just can’t put your finger on. Yes, I know assaulting someone’s physical appearance isn’t proper but it is really distracting, as if Stephen Amell had food stuck in his teeth throughout the film. Speaking of Stephen Amell, as much as I love Arrow Amell has a long way to go when it comes to a believable performance. His oddly high pitched whine is compounded by the forced delivery of oddly worded lines. Granted some of this is script related, thanks to the writers need to force down our throats that Jones wants to make detective one day. Apparently if you’re a movie cop you are either driven by the need to be a detective or to avenge the death of your wife/partner/kid. I’ll also add an open note to any future action filmmakers…no one looks cool on rollerblades. Filling out the trifecta is Tyler Perry’s Baxter Stockman. Perry spends his screentime, which thankfully isn’t much, doing what I can only describe as a bad imitation of someone from Revenge of the Nerds complete with odd, awkward laugh. The last gripe is a small one, really more of a longing for an exact copy of my childhood memories. Brad Garrett does a fine job as the voice of Krang but part of me couldn’t help but to long for that high pitched shriek employed by the original voice actor.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is, quite simply, a really fun two hours. Like a hot slice of pizza, the flick is simple, satisfying, and oddly comforting. A definite improvement over the first movie finding pretty much every hole and filling it with nostalgia filled goodness. Not an award winner or even a top 3 comic book movie of the year contender but I highly doubt anyone looking for the fun they had watching the cartoon as kid’s will leave disappointed.