Friday, June 3, 2016

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Review by Bob Ignizio

I did not get swept up in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mania when it hit the first time. The comics, even in their earlier, edgier incarnation, never interested me. The cartoon series that toned the characters down for a younger audience and broke the characters into the mainstream debuted in 1987, and by that time I was nearing the end of high school and a little older than the target demographic the show was after. I did catch the first film adaptation from 1990 on home video, but it didn't make any lasting impression on me.

So when producer Michael Bay decided to give the franchise a cinematic reboot, I didn't feel much one way or the other aside from my usual trepidation regarding anything Bay puts his name on. And while I wouldn't say 2014's TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES was a great, or even good movie, it wasn't any worse than what I remembered of the original film adaptation. Crap, but moderately entertaining crap.

That pretty much sums up this sequel, too.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS finds its four heroic terrapin brothers (brought to life via CGI and voiced by Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, and Alan Ritchson) still staying out of the limelight despite having saved the city in the previous outing. They've allowed bumbling cameraman Vern Fenwich (Will Arnett) to take credit for their deeds, an arrangement that is beginning to chafe a bit. Meanwhile, friend of the turtles and investigative reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox) aids the turtles in their continuing covert war on crime.

It's April who has discovered that unscrupulous scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) is planning to help the previous film's baddie, Shredder (Brian Tee) escape during his transport to prison. Driving the transport truck is Casey Jones (Steven Amell), a working class prison guard who turns hockey masked vigilante after losing his charge. Shredder also picks up a couple of new lackeys during his escape: Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly), both of who wind up getting mutated by some kind of purple glowing ooze that also holds the promise of turning the turtles human, and allowing them to come, as the title says, "out of the shadows".

Some cyborg/squid thing named Krang (voice of Brad Garrett) sets the plot in motion by promising Shredder co-rulership of the world if he can retrieve 3 pieces of alien machinery. And since Police Chief Bennett (Laura Linney, picking up a paycheck) doesn't believe April and Casey when they tell her about all of this, it's up to the turtles to save the day once again. But first, they'll have to overcome their trust issues.

Man that's a lot of plot for a movie this stupid.

The only time the movie sinks below the level of bad but entertaining is a scene early on that gratuitously objectifies female lead Fox by making her don a sexy schoolgirl outfit. I don't want to get all social justice warrior here, and in a different movie it wouldn't even have made me raise an eyebrow. Here, though, it feels tone deaf and out of place, tossing a dash of unnecessary sexism into the proceedings. But hey, what do you expect from Bay? 

Where previous helmer Jonathan Liebesman seemed to take the material somewhat seriously, SHADOWS director Dave Green imbues his film with the loopy energy of a late eighties/early nineties Canon film. The effects may be done with modern CGI techniques, but they don't look much more convincing that the rubber and slime that would have been used in the old days. This is a movie that's stupid, cheesy, and cheap, but never dull.  2 out of 4 stars.

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