Movie Review: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows'

Movie Review: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows'

2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, produced by Michael Bay (Transformers) and directed by Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans) was surprisingly not all that bad, and here’s another shocker: this sequel is even better.

And here’s the best part: despite the PG-13 rating, this movie is significantly less violent than 2016’s similarly-rated blockbusters like Batman v SupermanCaptain America: Civil War, and X-Men: Apocalypse, all of which had to deal with themes of mass destruction and loss of life.

In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows(what a mouthful), no cities are levelled, nobody seems to die or get seriously injured, no drops of blood are spilled and no foul words uttered. When a bad guy or bystander gets tossed from a plane, the movie is careful to note that he has a parachute and everything is just hunky-dory.

Now, maybe you want a dark, gritty, realistic movie about four mutated humanoid turtles trained by a giant rat to fight ninja foot soldiers and protect the streets of New York City.

This isn’t that. Instead, it’s squarely aimed at younger viewers and broadly executed, and winds up being a fun approximation of the goofy 1980s cartoon. Which is appropriate, given that the majority of the characters here are animated.

Those include the four main turtle protagonists, identified via a single personality trait and different-colored bandana, their sensei rat Splinter, and a trio of new baddies: Rocksteady (WWF wrestler Sheamus) and Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams), a slapstick duo of convicts who are mutated into a rhino and warthog, and Krang.

Krang is a giant slimy brain with tentacles stuffed inside a giant mechanical man-shaped robot, voiced by a near-unintelligible Brad Garrett. He’s casually introduced when Shredder (Brian Tee) accidentally gets warped into Dimension X, and shares his plan for world domination, as long as Shredder can obtain the required portal devices for Krang to fly the Technodrome into NYC.

Shredder signs on, but he, nor anyone else, seems to take note of the fact that this is a talking brain in a robot man’s midsection. I guess that’s par for the course for a movie about mutant turtles, although I feel like the 80s TV show might have provided a little more backstory, or at least comment on the weirdness.  

Highlight: a Brazil-set jungle chase sequence that begins at 20,000 feet and winds up with our turtles and their mutant enemies barrelling down the Amazon. It’s a well-written and choreographed action setpiece that is fun not in spite of all these characters being CGI creations, but because of that: as they fly across the screen while bouncing the MacGuffin between them, the film has the genuine appeal of a Looney Tunes cartoon.

The movie’s a little less fun when the human actors crowd the screen. They include April O’Neil (Megan Fox, who has less to do this time around but memorably dresses up as a schoolgirl in an early scene), a rather bland Casey Jones (Arrow’s Stephen Amell, who’s got nothing on Elias Koteas), a stock police commissioner (Laura Linney, who seems to be in on the joke), and Baxter Stockman, amusingly portrayed by Tyler Perry.

While few will admit this Ninja Turtles movie is legitimately good, when it sticks to its cartoon roots (it even blasts out the old theme song over the closing credits) it’s more than acceptable. Out of the Shadows aims low and succeeds, and is a better choice for pre-teens (and inner pre-teens) than most of this year’s other blockbusters. 

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