The Movie Review: ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Cowabunga dude! Now were getting into something that is very close to my heart: “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” I was a proud member of kids that were obsessed with the pizza craving ninjas that fought crime against the evil Shredder. The dark comics and the light-hearted cartoon from the eighties is where most people were introduced to these characters, but it was the toys that swayed me over.

I must have had dozens of turtle toys, creating my own scenarios that could have fit right on to the TV show. I think that my parents and a lot of older people have been baffled by the popularity of the heroes in a half shell.

I think that the turtles will always be to millennials what “Scooby Doo” is for the baby boomers; their story is one that has a great set up that has allowed not just one long series, but countless new versions. I don’t keep up with the current turtles cartoon, but it’s in the third season on Nickelodeon.

It’s still a big thing for kids and I can tell that their going to make their parents take them to the new movie. But with a darker tone, does “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” the movie finally get the live action scenario right?

There have been live action turtle movies before (most that I find as guilty pleasures), but when Michael Bay was announced as a producer, the fan community reacted with outrage. He promised that he would remain true to the origins, and to be honest, he kept his word.

April O’Neil (played by Megan Fox) is a reporter for Channel 6 in New York where she works with her cameraman Vernon (played by Will Arnett) to find out who’s leading the Foot terrorist organization (yep, not ninjas). During a foot attack, O’Neil witnesses four vigilantes defeating them.

She follows them to a rooftop where she discovers that the heroes are all human sized turtles; the noble leader Leonardo, the inventor Donatello, the cynical brute Raphael, and the surf lingo pizza obsessed Michelangelo. They take Miss O’Neal to the sewers where she meets their master, a talking rat named Splinter.

The cause of their existence has to do with a mutagen that the animals got caught up in. O’Neil does more research to find out that she may have been part of the turtle’s history in a lab where her father worked. She also finds Eric Sacks (played by William Fichtner) who may be leading the Foot as the evil Shredder.

While this is not the pop culture rape that most fans thought they were going to get, not much is here to make “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” stand out. The best thing about the movie that was the hardest to get right are the turtles. Their personalities actually match the characters and are taken full advantage of.

Listening to them spew their classic lingo was fun, but watching them was something else. Like a lot of fans, I hate the new design. The turtles are just so ugly and scary, that Freddy Kruger could give out ice cream compared to these mutants.

Not helping here is Megan Fox as April O’Neil. She had the right adrenaline junkie attitude, but her personality and motive is zero. I can’t blame Fox here, as any actress would have given a similar performance. Blame that on a screenplay that requires people to already know the turtles before coming to see the movie.

The rest of the story has the turtles stopping Shredder from destroying New York city, but that just the biggest problem. This is a major Mad Libs story that could have easily replace the turtles with Spider-Man or the X-Men and it would have not made a difference. Why couldn’t the story really embrace the idea of ninja teachings and apply it to the turtles lives and their fights? That would have been a way more interesting set up.

 I’ll give this two Shredder helmets out of five. While this movie disappointed me, I’m not as angry as I was with “Transformers: Age of Extinction”, as this is a short movie. I think that the movie’s box office earnings is going to go down big come week two after all the excited kids have come to see this movie. We will eventually get a great live action turtles movie; it’s just not going to be this one.

Robert T. Nickerson is a film critic. His work can be seen at

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