* (out of four)
Stop. Enough. Really. Characters from our childhood don’t need to be propped up and punched in the face. They’re not automatically magical for new audiences when executed with obnoxious, CGI-enhanced idiocy.
The latest culprit inspiring this exhausted rant (after “Transformers,” “The Smurfs,” etc.) is “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” a remarkably charmless revival of the comic book characters popularized by a late-‘80s/mid-‘90s animated series and two entertaining and one terrible live-action movies in the early ‘90s. Vanilla Ice’s “Ninja Rap” in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze” is a classic.
Produced by Michael Bay and featuring stupidly small parts for Taran Killam and Whoopi Goldberg, the new, ugly, video game-esque “Turtles” is even worse than 2007’s all-animated “TMNT,” putting this century one crappy Ninja Turtles-related movie ahead of the last one. As TV reporter April O’Neil, Megan Fox manages to say, “I know this is a story that really matters” and seem like she doesn’t know this is a story that really matters. Multiple characters sleazily harass her/comment on how hot she is, which shows what the filmmakers really think of her journalistic cred. The first time Ninja Turtle/walking one-liner Michelangelo (voiced by Noel Fisher) sees her, he says, “She’s so hot I can feel my shell tightening.” That line makes me feel dirty, as does the movie’s awful pop culture references and embarrassing Pizza Hut product placement.
The ridiculously generic plot involves April teaming up with the CGI turtles and their father/sensei/talking rat Splinter (voiced by Tony Shalhoub) to battle the evil Shredder (Tohoru Masamune), who in subtitles says things like, “I don't believe in fairy tales.” There’s incoherent action and a secret/super-predictable villain who of course explains his diabolical plan to his enemies and says, “Time to take a bite out of the Big Apple.” If you were trying to destroy Chicago, would you say, “The Windy City won’t be so windy anymore”? No, you wouldn’t. Also: Mutant turtles shouldn’t age at the same rate as humans!
Will Arnett plays another character who drools over April. Feet may as well play the Foot Clan because they’re more like faceless soldiers than the mildly interesting disciples of the previous, PG-rated movies. Those kinds of films rarely exist anymore, transformed into gloomy, PG-13-rated, superhero-ish nonsense with no clue about fun. Kids and people who used to be kids should be mad about that.
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