Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner
Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman (“Wrath of the Titans,” “Battle Los Angeles”)
Written by: Josh Applebaum & Andre Nemec (“Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol”) and Evan Daugherty (“Divergent”)
We should all be resigned to the pop culture of our youth being strip-mined for lackluster, cash-in film franchises by now. Transformers, G.I. Joe, and the Smurfs have all made their way back to the big screen in the last few years, all with middling-to-terrible results. But nostalgia is a potent force, and retreads of popular characters from the movie going populace’s respective childhoods act as powerful magnets for hard-earned cash, with each property making enough money it its initial theatrical outing to warrant at least one sequel. That said, nostalgia can only go so far before the true aroma—or stink, if you will—starts to waft through the perfume of reliving a youth gone by. And with the latest cinematic incarnation of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” the smell is reminiscent of a slightly overripe turtle terrarium: not bad enough to stink up the whole house, but smelly enough to be a nuisance you don’t want to spend too much time around.
The shell of the story remains the same as previous TMNT outings, with a nefarious gang of criminals known as The Foot terrorizing New York City. Intrepid reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) in intent on exposing the truth behind the crime wave, only her news director (Whoopi Goldberg) has her working the fluff news beat instead. When April makes her way down to the docks on her down time and witnesses four vigilantes—those being our turtle heroes—take down a gang of Foot, she unknowingly becomes embroiled in a long-simmering plot orchestrated by The Shredder to hold the city of New York hostage to a poisonous gas, where the only remedy is the mutagen which created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
When this version of the film was announced with schlockmeister Michael Bay in the producer’s chair, the collective internet immediately dismissed the film based on the lack of merit awarded to Bay’s treatment of the Transformers, to put it kindly. While nothing in this incarnation of TMNT sinks to the levels of stupidity present in the four Bay-directed Transformer films, the movie is just sort of there. Not good enough to recommend, and not terrible enough to inspire rage—especially with at least one or two well-received films under the franchise’s belt from decades past to satiate fans. Yeah, the film makes some stupid choices, like tweaking the origin story to make the Turtles and their rat sensei Splinter childhood pets of April O’Neil, a claustrophobic decision that echoes the worst ideas in the recent “Amazing Spider-Man” films. But the action scenes are well-orchestrated in a cartoony way, and the CGI—in spite of what you think of the Turtles’ nostrils—is a definite step up from the animatronic costumes of the ‘90s trilogy. You know, maybe you should just watch those instead.