TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

By Gary Murray

Starring Megan Fox, Will Arnett and a bunch of CGI Turtles

Written by Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec and Evan Daugherty

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman

Running time 101 min

MPAA Rating PG-13

Selig Film Rating Matinee

 

I have never really a fan of the Ninja Turtles, never read the comic books or watched the ten seasons of animated adventures. To me, the entire concept felt like a marketing ploy to sell toys.  I barely caught snippets of the 1990 debut feature on cable and didn’t bother with the two sequels.  So, coming into the re-boot of the cinematic franchise of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I was basically a babe in the woods.  After the film was over, I was pleasantly surprised by the newest adventure.

The film is an origin story with the opening credits looking like a comic book.  We see a drawn rat training some young turtles in the martial arts.  The illustrations seem to be from the pen of Frank Miller, with that rough, stylized vision.

The live-action story opens with April O’Neil (Megan Fox) a reporter doing fluff ‘froth’ television pieces for Channel 6 in NYC.  Her cameraman Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett) doesn’t mind doing these pieces but April wants to do hard news.   She is always looking for that big break, that major story.

April has been following an evil gang called the Foot Clan with a mysterious leader known as Shredder.  The menacing marauders have been stealing toxic chemicals but no one knows the reason.  While following a lead, April sees a vigilante stop the theft.  She tries to get a shot but fails. 

We find that April’s father was a scientist working with Eric Sacks (William Fichtner).  The two men had been developing on a serum that will save lives.  They were doing experiments on a rat and four box turtles, injecting a mutant virus.  These experiments will eventually become our crime fighting foursome.  

To be honest, the only reason anyone is going to see this film is to see the Ninja Turtles.  The last generation was crafted by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, something that has almost become an anachronism.  Now, everything is done by CGI and these Turtles are not the acceptation. They are done the same way the apes were conceived in the latest Planet of the Apes saga and look just as realistic.  There are some amazing skills shown on the technical side of this film.  No one doubts for one second that they are not a physical part of this world.

I have been a fan of the icon of Megan Fox, just not the actress.  She is easily one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood but cringe-worthy as a thespian.  Her biggest claim to fame is the first two Transformers flicks, not a lot to hang a hat on.  Here, she is used as a cross between eye-candy and the damsel in distress.   Her character does drive the story, but to little fanfare.  Everyone is here to see Turtles.  She reacts more than she acts but still looks pretty doing it. This is a film for a paycheck.

Will Arnett is a really funny actor who has been in some really unfunny roles.  Easily his best performance was on the television show Arrested Development.  Here he is playing an offshoot of that character, a bit smarmy and self-centered.  Though there are some laughs in the role, they are much more for comic relief.

William Fichtner is a television character actor who has been making the leap over into feature films.  He plays the bad guy with a certain charm, delivering lines that would be laughable with a less seasoned performer.  It has been said in Hollywood that the funniest roles to play are the bad roles and Fichtner proves the point.

Look, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is just meant to entertain two groups, kids and adults re-living their second childhood.  At that level it works.  It has action, humor and a message about sticking up for family. It is exactly what one expects when walking into a movie house.  While it will never win any awards, it is a solid way to waste an afternoon in the cinema.   

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