Movie review: The sewer-dwelling Heroes in the Half Shell rise again
August 8, 2014 12:00 AM
Industrial Light & Magic/Paramount Pictures
Leonardo in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."
By Scott Mervis / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The villainous Eric Sacks reveals at one point that they almost conducted the mutation experiment using rabbits.
Teenage Mutant Ninja ... Rabbits? That surely would have been an Easter Bunny nightmare for the children.
Fortunately, they went with the turtles, because turtles are cool and aside from Touche and Yertle, neither of which was all that fierce, there haven't been many famous terrapins.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja ones have been a big part of the lunchbox culture since the late '80s when the comic book was turned into an animated CBS series that led to more TV spinoffs, an early '90s movie series and a "TMNT" reboot in 2007.
The sewer-dwelling Heroes in a Half Shell rise again in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," and in keeping with the trend, Michael Bay and the other producers were aiming for something darker and edgier. The film has a gritty, grimy look early on, set in the sewer where Japanese rat sensei Splinter trains them in ninjutsu and in alleys and shipyards where they battle a military-style crime syndicate.
The Foot Clan, led by industrialist Sacks (William Fichtner) and powerful mutant Shredder, has a plan to unleash a mutagen from the top of a skyscraper in New York. If this sounds familiar, that's because we just saw it in the "The Lego Movie." Sacks wants to infect New Yorkers to make a fortune on the antidote, making this another Big Pharma conspiracy flick.
On their trail is intrepid Channel 6 News reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox). Despite being young, pretty, smart and willing to do investigate stories, her cranky boss (Whoopi Goldberg) wants to keep her on the "foam and froth" beat of puffy lifestyle pieces. Smarmy cameraman (Will Arnett) has far more interest in Ms. O'Neil, for reasons that are obvious. They would have had to work overtime in script sessions to devise three more cliched characters than this, and you can add Sacks to the list.
The annoying humans do little but take away from precious Turtle time. The 2014 versions are souped-up CGI characters with expressive faces that should appeal to both kids and Turtle nostalgists. Providing most of the laughs are young hip-hopper Michelangelo (voice of Noel Fisher) and thuggish Raphael (Alan Ritchson), while Leonardo (Johnny Knoxville) leads and Donatello (Jeremy Howard) can hope for more to do if there's a next movie.
Kids will like it because the action scenes pop, especially the snowy mountain chase and dangling skyscraper climax. And credit director Jonathan Liebesman for not going "Transformers" on us, and keeping this Bay project to a merciful 95 minutes.
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg
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