Unlimited Access. Try it Today! Your First 10 Days Always $0.99

Movies

Entertainment Movies

Review: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' ★★

The "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" franchise earns a Michael Bay-produced 3-D reboot that spares no expense in special effects and spares no decibels in the volume that is the soundtrack to all their new mayhem.

These digitally animated supersize turtles have real-world presence and weight, stomping onto the scene like teenagers who haven't learned to do anything quietly. Their brawls with trigger-happy foes from the Foot Clan are a blur of body blows and bullets. Their wisecracks are up-to-date, their love of pizza unabated.

Their human friend is a fluff-friendly TV reporter played by Megan Fox. So, yeah, Bay gave this production the full "Transformers" treatment. It's entirely too violent, but the teenage turtles armed with ninja swords, knives and nunchucks have always been violent, from their origins in the 1980s comic books to assorted TV series and the films of the '90s and an animated flop of 2007.

The new film, directed by Jonathan Liebesman ("Battle Los Angeles"), quickly and gracefully handles the back story — a lab experiment and a fire — and puts shapely TV reporter April O'Neil (Fox) on their case right from the start.

The Foot Clan, led by the mysterious megalomaniac Shredder (voiced by Danny Woodburn), is trying to take over New York. But these masked vigilantes keep foiling its plans.

April starts to piece together a puzzle that points to her own past, the man her scientist father was in business with (William Fichtner) and the "mutagen" and other chemicals they were toying with.

The heroes are masked ninjas, mutant turtles who grew huge, learned English and trained in martial arts with the inscrutable rat, Splinter (voiced by Tony Shalhoub). Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello and Leonardo only occasionally act like teenagers, usually in their banter.

"Did you tell her his name?"

"Maybe she's clairvoyant!"

"Maybe she's a Jedi!"

April cannot convince her boss (Whoopi Goldberg) that she's not crazy. And her on-the-make cameraman (Will Arnett, toned down and not nearly funny enough) is also a hard sell regarding these "heroes on a half-shell."

"So, they're aliens?"

"No. That would be stupid."

The animated rat has a much bigger role in this film than is usual for this series, and the animators give Splinter a few cute tricks to pull off, as well as an Asian martial arts master's long, thin goatee.

The action beats are bigger and better than they've ever been in a Ninja Turtle film: brawls, shootouts, a snowy car-and-truck chase with big explosions.

But in between those scenes is an awful lot of chatter and exposition. For a film that aims younger (save for the die-hards who grew up with this franchise), that's deadly dull.

And Fox, emoting as if her "comeback" depended on this, plays it all straight, which tends to rob the film of needed playfulness. The turtle brothers are somewhat less distinct as character "types" — the tech nerd, the angry rebel, the boy on the make, the leader. Among the voice actors playing the Project Renaissance turtle brothers, only Johnny Knoxville (as Leonardo) stands out: "Oh look, he's doing his Batman voice!"

So even though they did justice to this beloved franchise, there's nothing here that won't be forgotten by the time you've gotten home — after you stopped for pizza on the way.

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" - 2 stars

MPAA rating: PG-13 (for sci-fi action violence)

Running time: 1:40

Opens: Friday

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Review: 'Into the Storm' ★ 1/2
    Review: 'Into the Storm' ★ 1/2

    Special effects can't make us care about characters at the mercy of a perfect storm

  • Review: 'Clouds of Sils Maria'
    Review: 'Clouds of Sils Maria'

    Now 60, and always more of a wry classicist than a maverick, the writer-director Olivier Assayas is one of the steadiest and most reliable filmmakers in contemporary cinema. I like his latest, "Clouds of Sils Maria," a great deal; it's beautifully acted and has a few wise (if familiar) things to...

  • Review: 'The Salt of the Earth'
    Review: 'The Salt of the Earth'

    Watching "The Salt of the Earth," the compelling new documentary about photographer Sebastiao Salgado, it becomes clear early on just how odd it is to experience Salgado's work on someone else's timetable. With an exhibition or a book of photographs, you set your own clock, spending as much time...

  • Review: 'Monkey Kingdom'
    Review: 'Monkey Kingdom'

    Compile all the sufferings and adversities heaped upon all the vulnerable protagonists in the complete works of Charles Dickens, from "Little Dorrit" to "Oliver Twist," and you'd still fall short of the 81 minutes of hardship endured by Maya, the simian heroine of Disneynature's new nature documentary...

  • Review: 'True Story'
    Review: 'True Story'

    "True Story" is a case of a well-crafted film, made by a first-time feature director with an impressive theatrical pedigree, that nonetheless struggles to locate the reasons for telling its story.

  • In 'Unfriended,' horror comes to life online
    In 'Unfriended,' horror comes to life online

    The new horror flick "Unfriended," which opens April 17, unfolds completely on a computer screen. In the film a teenager and her friends are terrorized by a digital stalker seeking revenge for a shaming video that led to a suicide.

  • Review: 'While We're Young'
    Review: 'While We're Young'

    The vantage point of middle age is delightfully cruel, affording a clear view of the generation of hotshots coming up on the rail from behind and the generation of long-distance thoroughbreds five lengths ahead. The opportunities for angst are limitless.

  • Review: 'The Longest Ride'
    Review: 'The Longest Ride'

    No less than the "Harry Potter" adaptations or the "Fast and Furious" movies, the novels of Nicholas Sparks form the basis of a consistent film franchise in which the characters' names and crises and letters-read-aloud voice-overs may change, but it's the same wish-fulfillment universe across title...

Comments
Loading

54°