What the shell happened to our "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"?
Those lovable, wisecracking, pizza-loving, personality-plus reptilian superheroes have gone bland and generic, if not downright dull.
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"★ ★
Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Pete Ploszek, Johnny Knoxville, Jeremy Howard, Noel Fisher, Tony Shaloub, William Fichtner
Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman
Other: A Paramount Pictures release. Rated PG-13 for violence. 120 minutes
In this Michael Bay-produced reboot, the Turtles may be able to best the villainous Shredder, but they're no match for the onslaught of noisy CGI effects, confusing fight sequences, Brian Tyler's disruptively voluminous score, plus witless, perfunctory dialogue they're forced to work with for two long hours.
This marks a disappointing remake of the bold and delightful 1990 "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," directed with flash and verve by rock video artist Steve Barron. That witty, ambitious, cleverly written fantasy was part Walt Disney's "Pinocchio," Akira Kurosawa's "The Seven Samurai," Walter Hill's "The Warriors" and part cautionary tale warning parents about the dangers of ignoring their children.
The new, non-improved "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" comes from director Jonathan Liebesman, the fellow who gave us the dismal 2006 remake of the classic horror tale "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" plus the visual-effects crammed Michael Bay-wannabe sci-fi action thriller "Battle: Los Angeles."
Call this movie "Battle: New York City."
A not-so-secret criminal organization called the Foot Clan has been eating away at the insides of the Big Apple, unfettered by powerless law enforcement personnel.
The Foot Clan and its big toe, Shredder (Tohoru Masamune), become alarmed when their "secret" operations are thwarted by mysterious, unseen vigilantes who strike so quickly, no one can actually see what they look like.
New York Channel 6 TV features reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox, picking up another Michael Bay project after being booted from Bay's "Transformers" franchise) knows about these vigilantes.
She decides that her news producer (Whoopi Goldberg, phoning in a stock tough and snippy boss) will let her and videographer Vern (Will Arnett) report real news if they can find out the identities of these vigilantes.
When April finally meets the Turtles -- Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), Donatello (Jeremy Howard) and Leonardo (acted by former Hinsdale and St. Charles resident Pete Ploszek, but voiced by Johnny Knoxville for no apparent reason) -- she carefully repeats each of their names in rapt awe.
Could these be the same iddy-biddy pet turtles she raised as a little girl in her scientist father's secret lab working with his ambitious partner Eric Sachs (William Fichtner)?
Of all the mutant ninja turtles in New York City, what are the odds?
If that plot seems a bit dotty, it's not as wacked-out as the earlier reports that the screenplay (from a trio of writers) would feature an alien back story to update this vintage 1980s super hero parody created by comic book guys Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman.
Here, Turtles and their New York super rat martial arts mentor Splinter (acted by Danny Woodburn but voiced by Tony Shaloub for no apparent reason) want to stop Shredder and his smelly Foot Clan from taking over the city.
Shredder could be the most inept super villain in movies. He wants to kill Splinter, but after a brutal fight that Shredder wins, he doesn't even check to make sure his ratty foe is dead. Which, no surprise, he's not.
As cultural icons from the 1980s, the Turtles sound irrelevant when they retread their familiar catchphrases "Cowabunga" and "Dude!" (Thankfully, they don't resurrect "Turtle power!")
Although Liebesman's "Turtles" might have higher quality effects, these ninjas -- created in motion capture by Industrial Light & Magic -- resemble a genetics experiment gone horribly wrong.
Like the creepy, homicidal photo-realistic children in "Polar Express," these reptiles would be perfect for a horror movie. They possess none of the charmingly cute Turtle qualities from Jim Henson's Muppets factory in 1990.
Except for one Turtle who frightens April when they first meet, so he says to her, "Don't be afraid. It's just a mask."
And removes his colored eye band to show her.