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Overall Rating
3.57

Awesome: 21.74%
Worth A Look30.43%
Average30.43%
Pretty Bad: 17.39%
Total Crap: 0%

5 reviews, 16 user ratings


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TMNT - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2007)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Barely A Shell Of Its Former Self"
2 stars

I haven’t seen the original live-action “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie since it made its debut in 1990 but I seem to have a hazy recollection of it being a reasonably entertaining enterprise for anyone wishing to spend 90 minutes watching stuntmen in giant turtle outfits busting out some family-friendly kung-fu moves while saying things like “Dude!” and “Cowabunga!” a lot. Likewise, I haven’t seen the rush-release sequel “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze” since it came out a year later and outside of the inexplicable cameo from Vanilla Ice, I seem to have a hazy recollection that whatever mild charms the original possessed were in grievously short supply the second time around. Like most of America, I skipped the third one altogether and went about my life working under the assumption that the whole thing was just another kiddie fad that I would never again have to deal with in any way, shape or form.

Unbeknownst to me, there has apparently been a revival in recent years of the property and as a result, I found myself sitting down last week to watch “TMNT,” a brand-new big-screen adventure in which our heroes shed their amusingly clunky live-action trappings for the comparatively sleek surroundings of CGI animation and those pesky title words for a presumably cooler-sounding logo. Little kids may appreciate the former and marquee designers will embrace the latter but I suspect that anyone who doesn’t fall into one of those two groups and whose age and IQ reaches the double-digits is liable to find themself bored stiff by this noisy chunk of brain-rot that fails both as a contemporary animated adventure and as an exercise in nostalgia.

Since we last saw the Turtles–okay, since I last saw the Turtles–the quartet has fallen on some hard times. Head turtle Leonardo has been sent by wise old Master Splinter (Mako, in his final performance) to South America on a sabbatical designed to make him a stronger and more decisive leader and which allows him to help the poor and oppressed by serving as a benign Predator-like stalker of evil warlords. Back in New York, brainy Donatello has taken a tech support job, wacky Michelangelo works as a costumed Turtle knock-off on the birthday party circuit (an intriguingly weird idea that is sadly never developed) and surly Raphael spends his days sleeping and his nights secretly fighting crime as the vigilante Nightwatcher. Eventually (and “eventually” in this case means the 30-minute mark), the four of them reunite and after some initial tension, they learn the values of friendship and teamwork that will seem instantly familiar to anyone who recalls those public service reminders (“Remember kids–never put a rabid ferret in your sister’s lunchbox!”) that were tacked onto every episode in order to make the hyper-violent toy-and-cereal commercials seem more socially acceptable in the same way that Russ Meyer made “Vixen” socially redeeming by tacking on a discussion of socialism in the last 10 minutes after all the sex was finished. (I believe he would tell people that as soon as the character got onto the airplane, audience members could leave safe in the knowledge that they weren’t going to miss any good parts, but I digress.)

Their timing couldn’t be better because their reunion happily coincides with another threat to the very existence of the planet, I think. In a prologue that oddly resembles a test reel for a potential Saturday morning spin-off of “300,” we learn that 3000 years ago, a warrior king opened up a portal to another dimension or something that granted him immortality but which turned his fellow generals in living statues and unleashed 13 monsters of unimaginable power upon the Earth. Now that portal, conveniently located in mid-town Manhattan, is about to open again and the king, who now operates as wealthy industrialist Max Winters (Patrick Stewart), has decided that the gift of eternal life isn’t all that it is cracked up to be and sends his warriors, along with a band of free-lance Ninjas (led by Ziyi Zhang) to capture the monsters (who have begun to arrive in the Big Apple) in order to make everything right. Unfortunately, his generals would prefer to remain alive and decide to betray him in order to rule the world for themselves and only the turtles, aided by human pals April O’Neill (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Casey Jones (Chris Evans), can possibly save the day.

“TMNT” has plenty of wacky quips (“What is it with ninjas and smoke pellets?”) and enough action scenes to convince less demanding audiences that they have seen something resembling a movie. However, when it comes to such intangibles as wit, intelligence or energy, the films comes up painfully short. Our four heroes are distinguished only by the color of their headbands and demonstrate no individual identity that allows us to relate to them as the heroes of the film we are watching. (Even the voices are distressingly similar.) The humor is aimed squarely at very young children and those who still find the notion of turtles eating pizza to be an endless source of rich humor. What is most disappointing is that even though you would think that the action sequences would be somewhat improved by the shift from live-action, where the movements of the characters are somewhat hampered by the twin forces of gravity and the ability of the stuntmen to maneuver themselves from within their fiberglass outfits, to animation, those scenes are as clunky and uninteresting as ever. Watching them is like peering over the shoulder of someone playing a videogame that you aren’t particularly interested in getting your turn at.

The only real surprise to be had regarding “TMNT” is the fact that the makers were somehow able to recruit a fairly impressive group of actors to lend their vocal talents–were they all longtime fans of the cartoon who considered it an honor to be involved in any capacity? Of those recruited, Patrick Stewart, Mako and Laurence Fishburne (who turns up as the narrator) acquit themselves the best because the have the kind of rich and distinctive voices that lends a sense of gravity to even the silliest lines of dialogue. On the other hand, Kevin Smith makes so little of an impression in his bit as a short-order cook that I didn’t even realize it was him until the end credits began to role and Sarah Michelle Gellar sounds downright bored throughout. And while I am an enormous fan of Ziyi Zhang, even she would probably have to admit that a mastery of the English language is not one of her strong points and her what-the-hell-is-she-saying? performance here as the chief ninja babe (who seems to exist only to set up a potential sequel) shows that when it comes to acting in English, she really is better seen than heard.

“TMNT” is not a very good movie but as I indicated earlier, my relative disinterest in the franchise as a whole may not make me the most credible source for judging it in the eyes of some people. Therefore, I will try to be a little more specific. If you are a lifelong Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle devotee who has been eagerly anticipating this film ever since it was first announced, you may as well go because the complete absence of Vanilla Ice puts it at least one step above “The Secret of the Ooze.” If you are a parent looking for someplace to dump your offspring for 90 minutes, the lack of bad language or gory violence may make it sort of suitable but I would heartily suggest that you steer them towards something like “Bridge to Terebithia,” which isn’t a very good movie but it at least demonstrates a little more imagination than this one. If you have never ever before encountered anything “TMNT”-related and are inexplicably in the mood for some terrapin-based entertainment, I would suggest that you give this one a wide berth and instead peruse your cable guide for the next broadcast of “Gamera.”

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=15539&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/23/07 20:18:45
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User Comments

6/28/12 teenage mutant ninja turtle Teenage mutant ninja turtle movie is the best movie. specifically last week together all of 5 stars
1/01/09 The Dork Knight Definitely merits a sequel. And more Karai, plz ^__^! 5 stars
11/10/08 Monty A great update to the franchise, PG-13 action would have made it perfect. 4 stars
7/20/08 Shaun Wallner Great Kids Film! 4 stars
8/10/07 Charles Tatum Some nicely rendered scenes, but still standard stuff 3 stars
8/08/07 ES It was a great update for the story but there are some huge plot holes, too bad 4 stars
6/15/07 William Goss Fine to keep the kids occupied, but not quite enough for anyone else. 2 stars
5/25/07 David Pollastrini liked the guys in suits from the original better 3 stars
3/31/07 JM Synth Much better than anyone had any reason to believe it would be 4 stars
3/29/07 Jason P. brought my 3-year-old to this and he loved it everybit as much as i did! 4 stars
3/27/07 Tom better than those stupid 80's movies, thankfull the director read the comics first! 5 stars
3/26/07 Sean Y. True to the comics. At least they didn't follow the pointless 87 show. 4 stars
3/26/07 Pokejedservo A fun little movie a tad bit predictable but overall a solid little movie 4 stars
3/25/07 The Talking Elbow I didn't find anything to dislike about this movie. Critics are too bitter. 4 stars
3/24/07 Mike Loved this in the 90's but really didn't now. They should've at least played the old music! 2 stars
3/23/07 huyen nguyen 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  23-Mar-2007 (PG)
  DVD: 07-Aug-2007

UK
  23-Mar-2007 (PG)
  DVD: 22-Oct-2007

Australia
  05-Apr-2007 (PG)


Directed by
  Kevin Munroe

Written by
  Kevin Munroe

Cast
  Patrick Stewart
  Sarah Michelle Gellar
  Chris Evans
  Zhang Ziyi
  Kevin Smith



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