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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

| August 8, 2014 | 0 Comments

You’ve probably already made up your mind about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles before you’ve even seen it. Whether you’re pulled in by nostalgia, or turned away by the producing credit of the maître de poubelle Michael Bay, there’s very likely nothing that can sway you one way or another from engaging or resisting this enterprise.

My own approach to the ninja turtles has been one of relative indifference. It is an interesting idea pried long ago from a well-written underground comic by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird that ballooned into a worldwide phenomenon 25 years ago and has recently become the latest word in nostalgic frenzy. It’s an interesting surface idea – mutated turtles that live in the sewers, eat pizza and fight crime in the street like Batman – but there’s not a whole lot to build on.

This is evidenced by the new Ninja Turtles movie (the fourth, just so you know), which isn’t as bad as early reviews have indicated but – let’s put it this way – it’s a lot more fun than Bay’s obnoxious Transformers guano. That’ doesn’t make it a good movie. There’s plenty wrong with it. It’s generic, its characters are wooden, and its dialogue is boilerplate. Yet, the movie does have a spirit of fun.

The movie is yet another origin story.  The story hardly matters but for completion sake, here goes. We meet April O’Neil (Megan Fox), a cub TV reporter who makes her living doing those fluff pieces at food fairs and working out with fitness gurus, but yearns for something a little more full-filling (this one of many idea that are presented but not followed up on). So, she stays on the trail of a band of night crawlers known as The Foot Clan, a criminal underground who are taking over the city. We’re told that the city is under siege by The Foot Clan, but the city looks to be thriving and beautiful, there’s no sense of fear or decay present at all.

While on their trail, she gets a glimpse of a vigilante who knocks several thugs senseless. You can guess who the vigilantes are, but you don’t have to guess for long. The turtles are introduced fairly early, along with their rat sensei named Splinter. The turtles – Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo – are named after renaissance painters, and where they got those names comes in a coincidence that redefines silly.  Together, April, Splinter and the turtles surmise that the Foot Clan leader named Shredder (who looks like one of Bay’s Transformers) is about to drop something on Manhattan that will eliminate the population. And if you’ve already guessed that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has ripped off the plot of Batman Begins, then you’re on the right track.

I could spend all day telling you all the things that are wrong with it, but I can say with confidence that it didn’t bore me. The turtles are fun, even if you can’t easily tell them apart. They kid around like teenage brothers, and engage in a hip hop personal style that doesn’t grow tiresome.  It is nice that their entire speech isn’t loaded with pop culture references and overused buzz words. There’s something here, a better movie itching to get out. Yet, something is keeping it back. There are no pure moments when the turtles just connect. It might have been fun just to watch them during a little downtime, but like any of Bay’s movies, this one is so busy that there isn’t time for development.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a movie that is very difficult to like and, at the same time, very difficult to hate. There’s so much wrong with it, yet you laugh and don’t find your mind wandering as with Bay’s other Hasbro enterprise. Dissenters will repel the movie while fans young and old will find something to like. You know who you are.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.