Saturday, August 9, 2014
Movie Review: ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Article first published as Movie Review: ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ (2014) on Blogcritics.
If there was ever reason to go see Guardians of the Galaxy again this weekend, it’s the new live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For their fifth big screen adaptation they’ve brought along the worst offender of childhood plundering: Michael Bay. As if his own Transformers weren’t bad enough, Bay has his grubby fingerprints all over the Kevin Eastman/Peter Laird created comic characters now. Hold on to those precious memories you have of the ’80s cartoon series, kids — and the first two live-action films — because even listening to Vanilla Ice’s “Go Ninja, Go Ninja Go” ad naseum is better than any time spent watching director Jonathan Liebesman’s scatterbrained mess.
In this incarnation of our beloved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, intrepid Channel 6 news reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is hot on the trail of the Foot Clan menacing New York City. While biking home one night she witnesses first hand a vigilante putting a stop to an attack, but her boss (Whoopi Goldberg) won’t believe her story. Meanwhile, Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) order his number-two Karai (Minae Noji) to find the vigilantes leading to a subway hostage situation where — after 20 minutes! — our heroes in a half shell finally show up. April follows their escape route to the top of a building where she meets Leonardo (played by Pete Ploszek but voiced by Johnny Knoxville), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher).
And just wouldn’t you know it, April realizes that these four hulked-out turtles all have the same names as the box turtles she had as pets at her scientist father’s lab. Coincidentally, Erich Sacks (William Fichtner) happens to be her late father’s lab partner who thought the turtles, and a rat named Splinter (Danny Woodburn, voiced by Tony Shalhoub), perished in a fire. Now, Sachs uses April to help Shredder find the turtles to use their mutagen blood to develop a vaccine to look like the city’s savior after a killer virus is unleashed on New York City, and only April O’Neil can save the day!
Wait, what? Yes, this version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles winds up being the April O’Neil movie. As if casting Fox wasn’t insult enough to the character, they give her more screentime than any of our titular heroes. Fox is an abysmal actress who surely only accepted the role after Bay apologized for the way he reportedly treated her onset and gave her her own movie. Everyone else is completely wasted, although Will Arnett manages at least a few laughs which were probably improvised because none of his wit comes through in any of the rest of Josh Applebaum, André Nemec, and Evan Daugherty’s screenplay. This is bottom-of-the-barrel Bay atrociousness on every level. Along with enough slow motion sequences that could have cut a half hour out of the runtime alone, you also get the expected Fox butt shot.
There’s absolutely nothing to salvage this dreck as it features such classically bad lines like: “I’ll drain all their blood even if it kills them.” And I have to mention the Mount Everest-sized mountain that resides just outside Manhattan along with a super-convenient subway system entrance at the bottom that’s just two miles outside the city? Yup, that sums up the films level of brains; it’s just too bad the filmmakers didn’t bring any brawns to the film. There’s also an abundance of pop-culture references that will fly over kids heads and just make their parents groan. The only thing left to say is just go see Guardians of the Galaxy, whether for the first time or second, or third. It’s still the best film of the summer, whereas Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is simply one of the worst of the summer and the year.
Photos courtesy Paramount Pictures