Mark Reviews Movies

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows


2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Dave Green

Cast: Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Megan Fox, Stephen Amell, Will Arnett, Gary Anthony Williams, Sheamus, Brian Tee, Tyler Perry, Laura Linney, Danny Woodburn, the voices of Tony Shalhoub, Brad Garrett

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sci-fi action violence)

Running Time: 1:52

Release Date: 6/3/16

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Review by Mark Dujsik | June 2, 2016

There's a moment in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows in which a man, wearing makeshift rollerblades and wielding a piece of metal that looks like a hockey stick, skates away from a massive mutant rhinoceros, which is wearing pants and a leather jacket, as the creature rams into and flips over two rows of cars. The moment plays out in slow motion, so we get a decent amount of time to consider it. In that moment, one can't help but think, Well, that's something.

I have yet to determine what that "something" is. It's kitschy and cartoonish, yes, but that's clearly not the reason the moment sticks out from rest of the movie. This is, after all, yet another adventure about a quartet of box turtles that were mutated in a scientific experiment, escaped to the sewer, and were trained in the martial arts by a mutant rat. The kitschy and cartoonish parts already have been established quite well.

Is it a good moment? That's probably a loaded question. We're well beyond the realms of good and bad with this material.

On that note, maybe the moment is just the embodiment of what director Dave Green does with the material. He's not concerned whether a movie about these characters will be good or bad. He accepts the material's stupidity and embraces it. It is, as the saying goes, what it is.

If someone's going to make a movie about mutant turtles who fight against a clandestine organization run by a blade-covered samurai who eventually turns two convicts into a rhino and a warthog, that person had better recognize that there is no room for half-measures. If one of the heroes is a masked vigilante whose skills come from his affinity for hockey and one of the villains is a man-rhino hybrid, there might as well be a scene in which that hero dons rollerblades in order to escape the charging villain. That scene damn well had better be presented in slow motion, too.

There are other, perhaps even more ludicrous sights to behold as the motion-captured, computer-generated turtles—Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher)—must once again stop the evil Shredder (Brian Tee). Shredder escapes from prison with the help of Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry). The scientist's teleportation device brings Shredder to another dimension, where he encounters Kraang (voice of Brad Garrett), a talking brain with tentacles that is housed inside a big robot. Kraang wants to take over the world, and Shredder is more than happy to help if it means the end of his reptilian nemeses.

Anyone familiar with the cartoon version of these characters from the 1980s and '90s (originally comic creations by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman) won't be surprised by the sudden appearance of the alien brain creature, although it's still a bit jarring (partially because of how detailed its folds are and how disgusting the slime is). The same goes for Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams), the mutant warthog, and Rocksteady (Sheamus), the rhino who later drives a tank through the Amazon—the rainforest and the river.

There's something overly cartoonish about the rendering of these new characters that makes them feel separate from even the turtles, which still have the same disturbing design from the previous movie. One starts to wonder why a movie that has and focuses upon so many animated characters doesn't just go the route of full animation.

It's not as if the human characters really matter here. Casey Jones (Stephen Arnell) is the hockey-loving hero, and April O'Neil (Megan Fox) returns to disguise herself in a miniskirt in the first act, before mostly sitting on the sidelines for the rest of the movie. She existed in the first movie to be sexually harassed by cameraman Vernon (Will Arnett), who returns as the phony hero of previous events, and ogled in a most unsettling way by Michelangelo. Thankfully, that aspect of April's character is absent, but that means screenwriters Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec have nothing else of significance for her to do once she gets out of the miniskirt. Let's call it a wash.

At this point, the fact that this sequel is significantly less creepy than its predecessor is, one supposes, a virtue. The follow-up is also less cynical (The turtles still love pizza, but they get it from a generic pizzeria instead of a franchise). It's goofy, and it doesn't try to hide that quality behind a shroud of self-seriousness. The turtles and others still rattle off cheesy one-liners, but there's conflict between the four brothers as they try to learn how their differences make them a stronger team.

Naturally, all of this leads to a final fight that puts New York City in peril once again, and like the rest of the action sequences, it's muddled (especially with the background of swirling metal and the spinning of the camera). Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows does make an effort to improve upon the most obvious flaws of its predecessor, and for that, credit is due. It still is what it is—whatever that means.

Copyright © 2016 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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