Opening this weekend:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows—The title characters, four talking adolescent turtles oddly named after Old Masters of the Italian Renaissance, were parented, and mentored in martial arts, by a talking mutant rat. They live in the sewers of New York, and secretly defend the city from freaky wrongdoers, abetted only by fetching TV reporter April O’Neil and a few other allies.
This sounds crazy, but if you can look past the fact that the characters are turtles (and a rat), is it really any crazier, in terms of plausibility, than the X-Men or the Justice League? In any case, the quartet has been popular, in everything from comics to cartoons to live shows to movies, for about thirty years now, and in 2014 the movie series was “rebooted,” enjoyably enough.
In this sequel, directed by Dave Green, the villainous Shredder (Brian Tee), captured at the end of the previous movie, gets sprung from an armored vehicle by his motorcycle-borne minions. He’s then recruited by a repulsive alien warlord for a plot to, what else, take over the world.
The bad guys get a hold of some purplish gunk that transforms two of Shredder’s henchmen into monstrous rhino and warthog mutants, respectively. This same gunk also has the potential to turn the Turtles human, which might allow them to come out of the shadows and be accepted by the people of the Big Apple. Disagreement over whether this is a good idea sows dissension among the quartet.
In the midst of all the ensuing chases and fights, such pros as Laura Linney, as a police honcho, and Tyler Perry, as a nerdy scientist on Shredder’s team, struggle to hold their own against the CGI characters, and mostly succeed. Megan Fox is back as April, this time provided with Stephen Amell as love interest Casey Jones. Will Arnett is back, too, as April’s wacky sidekick Vern.
The finale involves a big time-space portal opening over Manhattan and the alien’s war machinery pouring out. We’ve seen this shtick at least twice before, in The Avengers and in Mr. Peabody & Sherman, and now it needs a nice long hiatus. But overall I enjoyed this silly summer movie. It couldn’t be less consequential, but it’s speedy, action packed and good natured.
It’s a hair more violent than I would have expected from a movie for kids in this day and age, but then I’m not sure to what extent younger kids really are the target audience here. The franchise began, after all, in the mid-‘80s. Many of the TMNT t-shirts I saw at the screening were worn by thirty- and forty-somethings.