TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (2014)
STARRING: Megan Fox, Will Arnett,
William Fichtner, Whoopi Goldberg, voice of Tony Shahloub
2014, 101 Minutes, Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman
are many reasons to reboot an old film series but the worst one is, “We already
own it and can make some money.” Not that the profit motive is bad, but it helps
if you have a story to tell or there’s a huge public demand for the characters
to come back.
The audience for
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles seems to consist of children watching the
current cartoon on Nickelodeon and adults who recall the original comic
books/cartoons/movies with nostalgia. The kids may enjoy this movie because
kids enjoy most anything that’s not broccoli. Adults may be another story.
For those of you coming in
late, the title characters are about as contrived as you can get. You either
accept them or you don’t. They were pet turtles mutated into human size
talking creatures who are both teenagers and ninjas. We know they’re
teenagers because they like pizza – a particular brand that is one of many
shameless plugs in the movie – and they’re ninjas because they wear masks
and call their leader sensei. Oh, and they’re all named for Italian
Renaissance artists: Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael.
Now there’s nothing
inherently wrong with a science fiction action movie that features
unbelievable and cartoonish characters and relies a lot on CGI. Last week’s
Guardians of the Galaxy is a perfect
example of that sort of film being done exceptionally well. However, it
helps to have actors interested enough in their roles to make them
interesting, as well as a script that consists of more than fight scenes and
lame one-liners. Unfortunately, the movie fails on both counts.
When the film opens with Megan Fox as reporter April O’Neil you already know
you’re in trouble. She’s doing fluff pieces but wants to break open the
story of the Foot Clan which has been engaging in a series of criminal acts.
Her cameraman (Will Arnett) and producer (Whoopi Goldberg) are skeptical,
especially when she claims to have seen heroic turtle figures fighting them.
"Kids may enjoy this movie because kids enjoy most anything
that's not broccoli."
The turtles (led by a giant rat voiced by Tony Shahloub) are fighting an
evil plot by the seemingly indestructible Shredder, a big guy in a metallic
version of a samurai outfit. The real villain, though, is Eric Sacks, friend
and colleague of Amy’s late father. That’s not a spoiler. We know he’s a
villain from his first onscreen appearance because he’s played by William
Fichtner who’s at his best when he’s cast against type which, alas, is not
the case here.
At this point if you still
care enough about the movie then only two things need to be said about it.
For anyone who is beyond their pre-teen years, the movie isn’t very much
fun. The action makes one appreciate the subtlety of the Transformers movies
and the humor consists of things like one of the Turtles facing death
admitting he didn’t get the ending of
Lost, a TV show that ended four years ago.
As for youngsters, the
movie is properly rated PG-13. There is a lot of violence, and threats of
violence, that may frighten very young or sensitive children. Parents know
what’s appropriate for their own families, but it’s worth mentioning that
this series was not originally intended to be kiddie fare. Showing the
Turtles (well, three of them) chained up as the evil Sacks drains their
blood for his nefarious scheme isn’t the sort of material most people would
use to entertain six year olds.
Teenage Mutant Ninja
Turtles may succeed at the box office but, if so, it will only show
that if a fan base is strong enough, one can make money with anything.
Daniel M. Kimmel is a
veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. He recently
released his first novel, Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood
and the Bartender’s Guide. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Watch trailer / clip: