Friday, August 8, 2014

Movie Review: These 'Ninja Turtles' belong in the sewer

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It's hard to be overly critical of a movie that features a family of talking turtles, raised by a rodent martial arts expert, who spar against the criminal underground of New York City. 

And yet I doubt I'm alone in approaching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the latest iteration of the enduring comic-book/cartoon/film/toy characters, with a certain degree of nostalgia-inspired hesitation.

Hesitation that was only heightened by the presence of Michael Bay as producer, the bombastic auteur who is already responsible for the creative demise of a campy beloved children's franchise in the woefully unstoppable Transformers films.

Hesitation that was heightened further by pre-release promotional materials that suggested the
filmmakers had spared no expense at creating the most visually unappealing heroes that state of the art computer imaging software can produce, resulting in a Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo and Splinter who are more Polar Express than Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
And more hesitation still at the prospect of body robot Megan Fox anchoring the "human" characters of the film.

Was it naive to think that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles could ever have been a good movie? I don't think so. We live in a technological era where a raccoon and a humanoid tree are two of the best aspects of one of the better major summer film releases.

But that hope, for those who held out, is unrewarded. TMNT is a loud, obnoxious, immature, menagerie that assaults the senses for a relentless 90 minutes, with the onslaught of hyper-kinetic imagery made all the more nauseating by sloppily applied 3-D.

In this latest film, Fox's April O'Neil takes center stage as a novice TV reporter tired of fluffy community stories and trying to scratch her way into "serious" reporting (Babe, you're an on-camera reporter in Manhattan. Excuse me if I don't shed a tear for your career trajectory. Oh yeah, and you look like Megan Fox.)

While investigating the actives of the criminal Foot Clan, O'Neil conveniently witnesses a vigilante thwart a robbery but is unable to convince her superiors to take the story seriously. No bother, she gets another chance soon when she conveniently is part of a Foot Clan hostage situation that is again thwarted by vigilantes, who she is then able to follow up to the roof and who are revealed to be 6-foot-tall, ninja reptiles.

But nobody believes the poor thing, so she does what any girl would do: go and tell the world's most obvious super-rich secret villain Erick Sacks (William Fichtner) who is working with the Foot and their leader Shredder, including using his resources to turn Shredder's ceremonial armor into the Silver Samurai from The Wolverine.

Turns out that O'Neil's father worked with Sacks the first time he and Shredder tried to take over the world, ret-conning April into the turtles' origin story and setting the stage for a sinister pharmaceutical plot straight out of Mission: Impossible 2 (yes, the John Woo Mission).

The turtles hold the key to Sacks' plot, and I honestly can't believe I've already spent four paragraphs synopsizing this movie. To wrap up: punch, punch, kick, flip LOUD NOISES!

Grade: D+

*Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles opens nationwide on Friday, Aug. 8.

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