Review – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

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by Kevin Muller

Sequels can either go two ways, they are improvements over the original or extreme downgrades.  The new “Turtles” movie falls somewhere in the middle.    On the bright side, the sequel is much more relaxed and embraces its silliness, which in turn, makes it mindless fun.  Unfortunately, on the flip side, it still has work to do and needs to learn how to prevent the silliness from turning into mind numbing stupidity because for a while it succeeds as pure entertainment.

One of the strongest parts of these movies are the relationships between the turtles and the depiction of each of them.  The actors give great representations of the characters we remember from our youth.  Noel Fischer is still the best one as the comedic Michelangelo.  Fischer adds just the right amount of comedy and heart to avoid Mikey from being annoying.   The other three are done well, with Pete Ploszek, who only did the character motion capture last movie, with Johnny Knoxville doing the voice, fully taking over the character this time.  There really isn’t any significant noticeable change to the performance, Ploszek’s voice fits in nicely.  From the good and the bad that the movie moves through one thing is consistent, whenever the four are on screen, the relationship feels authentic.   They fight, love, win, and lose as brothers.   Executive producer Michael Bay was very lucky to get these four actors because they have fantastic chemistry.

The relaxed vibe has translated to the human actors too.   Megan Fox, still miscast, but tolerable, seems to have more fun here.  She seems more in on the joke and willing to play along, versus trying to bring real depth to the character.  In the first five minutes of her screen time she playfully pouts then prances around half dressed.   The tone of this series is perfect for the representation of the news reporter which is just to look good and give as much seriousness to the role so she doesn’t come off as a complete airhead.

This time, April has uncovered vital information that ties renowned scientist Baxter Stockman, played by Tyler Perry, who goes full Madea cartoony in this role, to Shredder, who is now on his way to be locked up after being defeated in the last movie.  What the Turtles uncover is a plan to bring Shredder’s cohort Krang into our world from Dimension X.   The movie isn’t worried about explaining the established relationship between the two since it would get in the way of the action.   Much of the movie is full of plot holes but you really can’t hate on it that much.  What you can be annoyed about is the treatment of Shredder again.  In the last one, Shredder was a shadowed actor who became a Transformer like villain during the final battle.   Brian Tee isn’t given much to do besides look menacing as the turtles greatest foe.   Sadly, in a way, the mysteriousness of the character last time was more menacing than what Tee gives us.   This is mostly because the script treats him as such a single minded villain. Karai, who is supposed to be Shredder’s strong female hence woman is just a side piece here.  She really doesn’t do much, even during her final battle of Fox and Will Arnett’s, giving us his best Will Arnett, Vernon Fenwick.

The big problem with the movie is when it attempts to bring levity to the story.   The big internal confrontation with the turtles is that they want to be amongst the people, especially Mikey, who is a definite people person.  The plot device is mostly used to drive the story forward instead of making some serious issue about it.  While the story is more enjoyable, there are still pacing issues here.   The first part of the movie is actually really good with the story, humor, and the turtles all working simultaneously.  As the movie progresses into the second half, it just hits peddle to the medal and moves too fast over parts that should’ve been longer.   A trip down and back to the Amazon, where a battle ensues, is done in the blink of an eye.     It is as if director Dave Green wanted to get us to the final battle instead of letting these characters breath and do more at a reasonable pace.   The movie becomes so hyper that its relaxed effort completely washes away.

As with the turtles, the two henchmen of Shredder, Bepop and Rocksteady, are great throwback to anyone who watched the cartoons.  Their human counter parts played by wrestler Stephen “Sheamus” Farrely and Gary Anthony Williams, have such a playful dynamic, but are as dumb as rocks, that it is a blast to watch.   It is another success in chemistry between two important characters than fans will love.  Stephen Amell, known from TV’s “Arrow”, doesn’t seem like Casey Jones but does give him enough brawn that it distracts you from the fact that he is a bit miscast.   He comes off more like an Abercrombie model than a bad ass.  Still, he seems to be having a blast being part of this since he was around the age when the cartoons were popular.   Perry, who is used to playing different characters, turns up the goofiness to play Stockman.  The character, who was white in the comics, does have an interesting future  as a villain.   The only new part that is so horribly annoying is a voice.  Brad Garrett voices General Krang.  As in the cartoon, he is a giant brain that has a screechy voice.   The character is an abuse on the senses with CGI that is just too apparent and the voice just is gratifyingly annoying.   

As with the last one, the movie throws so much CGI  at the screen that it starts to make your head hurt.  The word subtle doesn’t exist in Michael Bay’s universe and any hope that it he would understand the meaning here should be vanquished.   The final battle is full of awful cinematography and terrible CGI.   It is a damn shame because for most of the movie it hit the correct balance.

The movie isn’t ashamed of being a mindless piece of entertainment.  It is a movie about four walking turtles fighting crime that have an unhealthy obsession with pizza.   For you adults, you can’t help to feel that your seven year old self would think that this is the “Citizen Kane” for your generation.   It is fun but the bumps are apparent.   If they keep on the track of improvement, the next movie should be tighter and better.  Until then, turn off your brain, grab a slice of pizza, and sit back and be entertained for two hours…the world is serious enough.

 

GRADE- B-

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