If your sons are getting tired of princess stories, they are going to love the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie storming into town this weekend. Don’t be surprised if you end up liking it too. While purist may take issue with some of the changes to the story in the new version, most will not. Parents concerned that the film maybe too dark or inappropriate for their children do to the fact that TMNT is produced by Michael Bay and directed by Jonathan Liebesman (known for directing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning), can breathe a sigh of relief as well. The fact that the movie is co-produced by Nickelodeon Movies is sure to be a factor in the film’s squeaky cleanness. Still, Bay and/or Liebesman can’t help themselves from keeping a couple of brief distasteful scenes that don’t belong in a kid’s movie, (one involves a Victoria Secret billboard of all things), but they are more on the silly side and won’t make for much of an impact on the young ones. These no doubt helped the film receive its PG-13 rating as there is no profanity in the film and most of the violence is of the cartoon variety.
Speaking of cartoons, that is definitely the feel of this movie. The plot is super simple, the action is larger than life and even when characters fall from a large distance like Wyle E. Coyote, they get up and walk away. There is even a message about the importance of family and working together as a team, values that parents can get behind.
Though the film stars Megan Fox, Whoopie Goldberg and Will Arnett, the real stars are the turtles, of course. The green ones get all of the funny lines and they actually act like teenagers. For the most part, Fox does a great job as April O’Neil, which will surprise some. A bigger surprise is that film didn’t leave anything funny for Goldberg or Arnett to say or do, which is a shame. They are okay in their roles of course, but there isn’t much to their characters. Goldberg sounds like an angry editor, but she still has a twinkle in her eye that says that she doesn’t mean it. Arnett spends his time looking for more clever things to say.
The history of how the turtles got their strength and size is explained in a short opening of the film. Are they space aliens as some hinted at months before the movie got out? “Of course not,” says April in the film. “That’s stupid.” (She may actually be referring to an early version of the script that that threatened to take the turtles in a whole different direction but was thrown out early in the process). For those who dislike origin stories, this is a plus.
In the cartoon world of coinincidences, it turns out that April’s father was a scientist working on a lifesaving potion that was tested on four turtles named Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), Raphael (Alan Richardson), Leonardo (Johnny Knoxville) and Donatello (Jeremy Howard) and a rat named Splinter (Tony Shalhoub). April considered these creatures her pets. When April’s father discovered that his partner’s plans were meant for evil and not good, he set fire to the lab. April rescues the critters and hides them in a sewer grate. Then she conveniently forgets about them until she was reunited with them face to face many years later. Isn’t it ironic that out of all the people in New York, she is the one who comes in contact with the four? Yes, the film is filled with that irony, which also helps to make it a lot of fun.
The ninjas have been hiding underground with their “father” Splinter who tells them that they will one day be sent to protect the humans above when the time is right, but being teenagers, the four think that this could be sooner than later.
Meanwhile, the city of New York is facing a rampant crime wave blamed on the evil Foot Clan lead and its leader, Shredder. Then there is Eric Sacks (William Fichtner) who knew April’s father well and may be the only one who really knows what is going on.
TMNT isn’t a masterpiece by any means. It is full of plot holes and for the casual observer, seems like a train wreck of a story. But all in all, it’s a fun film. Lots of laughs and action, just what many are wanting during the dog days of summer.
For those who are interested, it appears that the turtles have a preference for not just any pizza, but one that comes from Pizza Hut and they enjoy washing it down with Orange Crush, a fact that must make the folks at Crush thrilled. (I wonder if the afformentioned Victoria Secret will have any tie-in with this movie. Turtle-shelled bras anyone? Product placement at its best.)