So Is This a Kids’ Movie, or What? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Left to right: Leonardo, Michelangelo and Donatello in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows from Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon Movies and Platinum Dunes

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Directed by David Green
Opens June 3

Despite my base nostalgic impulses, I can’t admit the 1990s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trilogy is wholly worth lionizing. The original film’s strengths—effective hand-to-puppet combat; authentic murky tone; compensation of technical limitations with okayish character development; inclusion of actual teenagers—dwindled with later entries. Between the films, toys, cartoons, and video games, my memory of iconography overtakes actual moments. Crazily enough, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want a good Ninja Turtles narrative, one where I see the color-coded pizza-munchers beyond their basic traits (Leonardo leads, etc.). I don’t see it happening, and that’s fine, because I don’t need it. I don’t need it because I don’t have children. And if my children dug the Ninja Turtles the way I once had, need would then factor in. In any scenario, depriving said kids of a memorable cinematic experience, no matter how shitty it is for adults, would be far more irresponsible than studio execs failing to muster a compelling romance between an ambitious news reporter and a dopey hockey-obsessed vigilante. But Out of the Shadows, despite its kid-directed exposition and harmless inner turmoil, courts favor from adults emerging out of the shadows of a turtle-powered childhood. And were I not burdened with neo-Michael Bay low-angles and a dick joke involving an anthropomorphic warthog, I could forgive David Green for repeating—and often worsening—the original trilogy’s downfall.

If the last Turtles was a shinier update of the 1990 original peppered with hints of the cartoon, this Green machine exports an extended 80s Saturday morning to the cinema with the influx of familiar baddies Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett)—a maniacal pink blob housed in a robot’s midriff who unsubtly namedrops the Turtles’ toy manufacturer—and dimwitted duo Bebop and Rocksteady (Gary Anthony Williams and Stephen “Sheamus” Farrelly, respectively), escaped prisoners made more obnoxious when mutated into zoo animals by the secretive purple ooze that could potentially reverse the Ninja Turtles’ conditions. Though the Turtles are tempted, the film never takes the full risk of following through with this potential mistake, or moralizing the importance of retaining true identity, or demonstrating how humans just goddamn ruin everything. Though heavy-handed, that would at least offer a substance not enacted by the film’s actual humans, including Megan Fox, equally vacant Stephen Amell, nutty professor Tyler Perry and surprisingly non-corrupt chief Laura Linney. They’re putting on their best face for the kids. So must the adults in the audience, who will be left cold by the overzealous winks, ballistics, and farts. Most offensively, they won’t even want pizza.

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