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Movie Review: ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows’ The Jokes Aren’t Funny, the Action Isn’t Thrilling

ninjaBy Bob Garver

Should I even bother getting mad at this movie for being garbage? The whole “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” franchise has been garbage since the 80’s. The movies and cartoons have never strived to be anything more than toy commercials, and parents hate the toys because they’re so violent. Expectations are so low that it’s virtually impossible for “Out of the Shadows” to disappoint – it can only fall in line.

We indeed get the four Ninja Turtles: leader Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), tough one Raphael (Alan Ritchson), smart one Donatello (Jeremy Howard), and alleged comic relief Michelangelo (Noel Fisher). They’re helped by their sewer rat mentor Splinter (Tony Shalhoub), human reporter friend April O’Neil (Megan Fox), her buffoon former cameraman Vern (Will Arnett), and new well-meaning cop Casey Jones (Stephen Amell).

There’s a moment early in this movie where Jones is telling an outlandish-but-true story to a superior officer (Laura Linney) and she doesn’t believe him. It’s no wonder she doesn’t believe him, Amell is channeling Mark Wahlberg in “The Happening” with his performance. He has the demeanor of a clueless idiot, which is the closest thing he has to personality. I thought I had a passing understanding of Ninja Turtles lore going into this movie, but I had never heard of the Casey Jones character. My guess is that he always sort of faded into the background, which was the right call if this version is any indication.

Speaking of characters who basically fade into the background, Shredder (Brandon Tee) is supposed to be the head villain of this universe, but he doesn’t do squat in this movie. He’s broken out of prison by evil scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry), gets aid from planet-conquering space alien Krang (Brad Garrett) and creates two mutants to combat the Turtles; warthog Beebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and rhino Rocksteady (WWE superstar Sheamus), but he can’t be bothered to do anything himself. The new villains aren’t the most effective opponents, but at least they’re effective inconveniences, which is more than I can say for Shredder.

There’s a dime-a-dozen “saving the world” plot in play, but there’s also a storyline about the Turtles discovering a serum that might turn them human. They disagree on whether or not to use it or even let each other know about it. This leads to dissention between the brothers and they blow a major mission because of it. Or at least they’re supposed to. This movie is so poorly thought-out that the writers forget to have them not get along on the mission. Leonardo says “Nice teamwork” at the end of it and it took me a while to realize it was supposed to be sarcastic. It could genuinely apply to the preceding sequence, even if they did come out on the losing end.

The movie is filled with CGI, from the Turtles themselves to the action sequences to food. The special effects are about as lousy as everything else in this movie. They’re cheap, they’re unconvincing, they’re ugly, the characters look weird at certain angles. The nicest thing I can say about them is that they’re consistent and plentiful, so at times you get the impression you’re watching a cartoon. It’s not like the live-action sequences fare any better.

What can I say about “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” that isn’t obvious to anyone halfway familiar with this franchise? The jokes aren’t funny, the action isn’t thrilling, the script was clearly an afterthought, and the characters aren’t likeable. That last one bothers me the most. The sullen Turtles lack the appeal of their cartoon counterparts, and the dull humans certainly aren’t picking up the slack. I gave the 2014 “Ninja Turtles” movie one and a half stars out of five because Megan Fox brought an ounce of charm to April, this movie is even devoid of that. I guess I was wrong, this movie is capable of disappointment.

One Star out of Five.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence. Its running time is 112 minutes.

Contact Bob Garver at rrg251@nyu.edu.