Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Stephen Amell
Directed by: Dave Green (“Earth to Echo”)
Written by: Josh Applebaum (“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”) and Andre Nemec (“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”)
As an 11-year-old in 1990, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fandom hit me right in the gut. When the first feature film, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” hit theaters, my friends and I were puzzled by the differences from the beloved cartoon series that was all over afternoon and Saturday morning TV. Where was the turtles’ armored transport, the Party Wagon? Why was Shredder so scary? And where were the other bad guys: mutants like warthog Bebop and rhinoceros Rocksteady, or extra-dimensional brain-in-a-robot-body Krang? While the 1990 film remains the best, most competent movie from point A to point B, it’s the newest film, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” that captures the goofy spirit of the property kids fell in love with nearly three decades ago.
Picking up a year after 2014’s dismal, dumb reboot, “Out of the Shadows” opens with our CGI heroes – helpfully labeled on screen as Leo, Mikey, Don, and Raph – jumping off the Chrysler Building and into Madison Square Garden to watch a Knicks game from inside the Jumbo Tron. As Mikey laments that their status as mutated turtles keeps them out of the spotlight, motor mouthed cameraman Vern (Will Arnett) returns to be honored at halftime for saving the city from Shredder, part of an agreement with the turtles to keep them from being exposed to the city they saved.
Meanwhile, convicted terrorist(!) Shredder (Brian Tee) is set to be transported to a maximum security prison, escorted by corrections officer Casey Jones (Stephen Amell) and in the company of street punks Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Sheamus). That’s when Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry), a mad scientist who is under investigation by reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) uses a teleporter to retrieve his sensei from the prison van. Something goes awry in the teleportation, however, and Shredder ends up in front of Krang (voice of Brad Garrett), a talking brain inside the belly of a robot body. Krang recruits Shredder to put together pieces of something or another that will allow a battle station called the Technodrome to travel to earth in order for Krang to enslave humanity. To help him in his mission, Krang gives Shredder some purple ooze, which he uses to create his own mutants to battle the turtles.
Look, the plot is junk, there are too many lowbrow fart-type jokes and the music is bombastic and ill-fitting, but holy shit, they got the four turtles and villains Bebop, Rocksteady and Krang exactly right. Leo, Mikey, Don, Raph and the aforementioned bad guys are essentially perfectly transplanted from the original cartoon series, and it’s just so much fun. The highlight of the film, a mission to Brazil that starts with our heroes diving from a cargo plane and ends with fight on a river revolving around a floating tank, is energetic and exciting and the best example of these motion-captured turtles as living and breathing characters. The humans don’t fare so well, however. Shredder, outside of his trademark costume for most of the film, is relegated to a mere middleman, while newcomer Casey Jones never really settles in to a groove as a trusted-yet-unhinged partner to the turtles or a love interest to April O’Neil, here again nothing more than eye candy in the sexy, sexy form of Megan Fox. While a vast improvement on the reboot from two years ago, it’s not without its pitfalls, one of which is the very modern problem of keeping one looking ahead toward a sequel at all times (i.e. not a single villain dies in this movie – even goons tossed out of airplanes are given parachutes). Grab yourself a big, cheesy slice.