Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows Movie Review
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Within the first 5 minutes, April O’Neil strips out of her business suit and shoplifts a teeny school girl outfit to distract absolutely no one to get what she wants. There is sports ball and pizza and action. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows has a very specific audience – but there’s room for everyone to have a good time.
I didn’t see the first of the reboot series, so all I can tell you about the story is this: April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is trying to dig up dirt on brilliant scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) so she flirts to get close to his email machine to download some files. I could not remember what April did for a living…but for the first 90 minutes of the movie she flirts, gets into strangers’ cars, breaks into labs, runs in wedge heels, and gets arrested. How well that job pays I don’t know, but it makes her a busybody that needs rescuing a lot. So just before the stolen files erase themselves (Stockman’s emails are better protected than his email machine) she confirms her suspicions that he’s a bad man – her ‘Busybody Sense’ was tingling and spot on.
Meanwhile, Casey Jones (Stephen Amell, Arrow) a corrections officer with anger management issues (not topical AT ALL) loses three very dangerous criminals during a prison transfer. When he tries to tell his side of the story, no one believes him, despite the fact that it’s New York and there are more cameras on a single city bock than in the entirety of most metropolitan cities. This makes him a freelance badass with a hockey mask and no superpowers, so really he just gets in the way a lot.
There is Shredder (Brian Tee, Chicago Med) – Super! Bad! Guy! – who escapes police custody and is transported to some ‘Other Dimension’ to take orders from a drooling sentient brain named Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett, Fargo) with tentacles and promises a lot of crazy things if Shredder can retrieve some fallen space parts. Inter-Dimensional Domination is afoot, and Shredder for being a hard-ass is really just reduced to an errand boy that happens to have a lot of resources for a man who just got out of prison. In exchange for his assistance, he’s given some purple Ooze and makes more mutated people. Enter Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams (The Soul Man) and Rocksteady (WWE’s Sheamus), who with the help of some misguided gratitude and a bit of the Ooze become the Warthog and Rhino we remember from the cartoons. They aren’t very bright, which is probably how they got caught and sent to prison in the first place, and Rocksteady has a disappearing Irish accent despite being proud of his “Finnish” heritage. I thought the Ooze would do something bad to the Turtles, but I clearly misinterpreted Krang when he told Shredder it would defeat the Turtles once and for all. I guess that’s why I’m not a bad guy.
Dean Winters (Allstate’s “Mayhem” guy and obviously other stuff but Mayhem rules!) makes an appearance as a bar owner who wouldn’t survive a month in an actual laundering-phones-and-weapons-business on account he cares more about his glassware than his reputation as someone to be trusted by people who could kill him. Whatever – that scene’s takeaway is bad guys are cowards.
Underneath all of this are “four teenagers” who look like giant upright turtles, have the fighting skills of ninjas, and answer respectfully to a giant, if ancient rat. They have angst. They totally want to be apart of our world (cue Ariel on a rock) but totally can’t because, well, they’re giant turtles and they look kinda terrifying. ILM (Industrial Light and Magic for the uninitiated) seriously steps-up in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows and what you see are four very distinct “people” behind their colorful masks. My cartoon recollections bring to mind fairly anthropomorphic turtles with disturbingly long legs distinguishable only by weapons and masks. Here, from their relative sizes to their individual faces, they feel super real. Donny’s (Jeremy Howard, Mighty Med) myopic stare, Mike’s (Noel Fisher, Shameless) sheepish grin, Raph’s (Alan Ritchson, Black Mirror) menacing scowl, and Leo’s (Pete Ploszek, Teen Wolf) stoic determination to just be the leader he thinks he needs to be. It’s actually pretty touching and very cool. You can really forgive all of the little stuff like Perry’s awful (really, awful) nerd-act and the bad guys who so desperately want to be a part of something bigger than they are, yet find themselves betrayed because they’re pretty stupid for criminal masterminds. It is all little stuff. Movies like this will never be perfect, and when you walk out of the theater into the lobby, blinking back bright lights and adjusting to the tangible world again, it’s really okay.
Science, procedures, basic common sense – all of them are casualties in this 112 minute adventure, but you know what? As someone that hasn’t seen a TMNT property since watching the cartoon series many, many moons ago – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows was really fun. The Turtles are back! They acted like squabbling, loving brothers, and they defeated the bad guys with skill and intelligence and a lot of horsing around. I can smile when I write that because it was neat to see. It was great to be reminded of that.
I guess in the end that’s what summer movies like these are all about. We know you can’t break into police headquarters carrying a toolbox and a ball cap lowered over your eyeballs, and we know the origami folding of time that allows the Turtles to cross paths with Bebop and Rocksteady is not only illogical but illegal in every airspace in existence, but you’re not supposed to have your thinking cap on to analyze conflict resolution or data encryption or gravitational shifts over major metropolitan cities when you’re watching a movie about TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. Quibbling about the other stuff seems kinda petty.
So yeah, it’s dopey, goofy, sometimes thrilling and a lot of fun. It’s fan service almost to a fault because it’s just assumes you already know what’s going on and frankly they don’t have time to tell you. “Just roll with it” is a phrase you’ll hear when the movie hits a weird snag they aren’t going to solve with logic. That’s about when I sat back and just had fun.
My screening was in 3D which (and I’ll never stop saying it) it a ridiculous waste of money. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows would still have been a hoot in flat 2D. We don’t need to be *in* the movie to enjoy the experience of the movie.
**By the way April is a reporter for Channel 6 News. Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec might want to work on making sure her job is as important as supporting the men in her life, and the other women characters have more to do than either act bitchy (Laura Linney as really unreasonable Chief Vincent) or look pretty (Alice Callahan, literally cast as “Attractive Detective” on IMDB.com).
Like this? Read this: What if the TMNT Universe took place in DETROIT?