I am of that age where a good chunk of my childhood was dedicated to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. My life revolved around Ninja Turtles action figures, pizza and trying to get my mom to buy me a pair of foam nunchaku from the flea market. (She refused because she thought I’d hit my sister with them. Unfortunately, she was probably right). Nonetheless, as I have grown older, any nostalgic feelings I had for the show, the toys or the movies have faded.
The only reason I mention this, is that how you feel about the latest theatrical translation of the Ninja Turtles, the computer-animated TMNT, is entirely dependent upon how you feel about the Ninja Turtles. If you are a still a fan, then you’re likely to find this film entertaining and faithful to its predecessors. If you never gave a damn in the first place, this newest incarnation is unlikely to change your mind. And if you’re like me, somewhere in between sentimentality and apathy, then you’ll find an occasionally fun action cartoon that has a problem with treading already worn territory.
The film is not a remake, but rather acts as a sequel, and picks up at some unknown period of time after the Turtles have defeated their archnemesis, Shredder. With no one left to battle, the team has stopped fighting crime, and the members have gone their separate ways. The film really gives no backstory, and presumes the audience already has some frame of reference with their previous incarnations. The odd thing is the makers never say what TMNT is a sequel to, making it unclear whether they are following along with the comics, the TV shows or the old live-action films. In this respect, the movie will be the most rewarding to anyone who’s ever casually followed along with the Turtles in the past, while there’s a good chance that everyone else will just be left confused.
The problem with this tactic is that anyone familiar with the shows or the movies has already seen what the new film has to offer. While it does a great job of capturing the spirit of the whole deal, the movie quickly turns into a generic retread. It’s the same excruciatingly lame one-liners, the same action sequences, the same inter-Turtle relationships, even the same catch phrases, except this time with 18 years of age added on. While there’s a slightly cheesy charm to it all, it gets old fast, and anyone without an already built-in frame of reference is likely to find the whole thing—from the action, to the storyline (involving the “aligning of stars” and the opening of a portal to another dimension), to the characters—simply worn out.
As far as the animation goes, it ranges from the impressive to the ho-hum. The human characters have absolutely no physical personality, unless you’re the type to count April O’Neil’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar) awkwardly large chest as “personality.” The fight scenes are occasionally well done, but suffer oddly from the trend of incoherent shaky-cam action sequences that plague most live-action films these days.
Despite these flaws, in the world of animated films, TMNT does have the advantage of not being just another Shrek (2001) rip-off or another formulaic Pixar film, though this doesn’t stop the movie from ripping off its own mythos. Nonetheless, I’m certain that if I were still 9 years old, this movie would be ruling my world right now. Rated PG for animated action violence, some scary cartoon images and mild language.
— reviewed by Justin Souther