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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
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by Peter Sobczynski

"However Much I Ooze"
1 stars

At one point in the brilliant new documentary “De Palma,” the legendary filmmaker Brian De Palma takes a break from looking over his own artistic legacy to offer an astute analysis as to why so many of the mammoth effects-heavy behemoths that have come to dominate contemporary American cinematic legacy—among his key points is the observation that because of the complexities involving the visual effects, the big set-pieces pretty much have to be pre-visualized by the technicians with little involvement by the actual director and as a result, they tend to have a formulaic quality that quickly becomes boring despite all the razzle-dazzle on display. By sheer coincidence, only a few hours after seeing that film, I found myself sitting through “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” and realized to my simultaneous amusement and horror that pretty much every flaw De Palma described about contemporary blockbuster filmmaking is on display here in the most ghastly manner imaginable. The results are so awful that while I would never want to try to imagine the mindset of someone who is actually looking forward to a new Ninja Turtle film, I would find it very hard to believe that even that particular fan base will find much of anything to embrace here in a film that demonstrates all the visual dynamism of a trash fire, albeit one with slightly better audio and slightly less narrative propulsion than usual,

Set roughly a year after the events of the 2014 film in which they saved New York from the depravations of the evil Shredder (I think that is what happened—my memories of that cinematic gumdrop are blessedly fuzzy at this point), our titular quartet—Donatello, Raphael, Leonardo and Michelangelo—are still forced to keep a low profile, lest the people see them and immediately fear an imminent salmonella outbreak. Meanwhile, Shredder (Brian Tee) has joined forces with goofy mad scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry, ripping off Eddie Murphy’s turn in “The Nutty Professor” instead of his work in “Norbit” for a change) to help put together a device that will open an inter-dimensional portal that will allow the icky alien loon Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett) to arrive and destroy the world. Amidst some inter-group squabbling that crops up whenever the film needs a theoretically dramatic moment, the Turtles endeavor to save the day with the help of journalist pal April O’Neill (Megan Fox), her onetime cameraman (Will Arnett), wannabe police detective Casey Jones (Stephen Arnell) and, eventually, the chief of police (Laura Linney. . .yes, Laura Linney) in a climax that is virtually a beat-for-beat ripoff of the climax of “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

The previous “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” film, which revived the live-action feature wing of the franchise after nearly two decades of dormancy, was a pretty awful film but it proved to be enough of a success at the box-office to suggest that there was still a market for their big screen adventures. Therefore, one might have hoped that producer Michael Bay might have actually put a little more effort into making this one at least slightly more tolerable but it only takes a few minutes to realize that this is not the case here. The screenplay by Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec contains not a single original idea (besides “Ultron,” the film cribs from everything from “Ghostbusters” to “The Dark Crystal”) nor any displays of actual humor or excitement. The action scenes are so incoherent and tiresome that I found myself checking the end credits to make sure that Donald Trump wasn’t making his directorial debut here. (The actual credit/blame goes to Dave Green, the auteur of the largely forgotten “Earth to Echo”). As for the turtles themselves, I suppose that fans can explain at length about their subtle differences but to these eyes, they remain an anonymous blob that continue to retain fewer individual characteristics than the Spice Girls back in the day.

Of course, the theoretically human characters on display here fare little better. Perry tries way too hard to be the zany comedy relief but his efforts inspire more flop sweat than genuine laughs. Megan Fox, an actress who I still have a soft spot for and whose demonstrable gifts as a comedienne are squandered here as completely as they were in the previous film, seems so utterly removed and disassociated from the proceedings that the vibe she gives off is not so much that she was cast here so much as she was taken hostage. Then there is Laura Linney, whose presence here is so utterly mystifying that it provides the closest the film ever gets to actual entertainment value. Once upon a time, Linney appeared in the film “Congo,” a berserko work that saw her acting opposite both a martini-sipping gorilla and Joe Don Baker in scenes so strange that when I got the chance to interview her a few years ago for a completely unrelated movie, I, of course, had to ask her about it. (To her credit, she answered graciously with good cheer and did not insist on having me roughed up afterwards.) After watching her appearing here in a scene in which she awards medals of valor to four overgrown turtles in front of a crowd including a giant rat and Megan Fox, I realize that if I ever get a chance to interview her again, I know at least one thing that I will be sure to ask her about.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=27735&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/03/16 14:08:49
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USA
  03-Jun-2016 (PG-13)
  DVD: 20-Sep-2016

UK
  N/A

Australia
  03-Jun-2016
  DVD: 20-Sep-2016




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