Film Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Aimed squarely at the elusive point where the attention spans of young children, teenagers and adults meet, the 3D 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' strikes it with surprising regularity.

New York City TV news correspondent April O'Neill (Megan Fox) and her unambitious but loyal cameraman, Vern (Will Arnett), are on the "froth" beat, but April aspires to be a serious reporter. She gets her chance when, while doing a little after-hours snooping around the waterfront, she sees four citizen crimestoppers wallop the hell out of a gang of baddies and manages to snap a photo. Trouble is, the do-gooders are pretty weird looking…they look like, well, giant turtle-guys with fists and feet of fury, samurai swords and bo sticks and other martial-arts weaponry. Not exactly an easy story to sell, since pretty much everyone who hears it thinks April is either pulling some kind of prank or losing it. Too bad none of them saw the movie's prologue, which explains the origins of the mutant turtle justice league, but if they had there wouldn't be much of a movie here, since the plot hinges on April's twin discoveries of what the golden-hearted vigilantes are and what connects them to her—namely, that her father co-created them with his lab partner Dr. Sacks (William Fichtner), who's been like a father to her since her own dad died.

As is generally the case in movies about crusading but naïve reporters, the more April learns, the more she unwittingly puts herself in harm's way, so it's a good thing the turtles are teenage boys at heart and go to emotional pieces in the presence of a cute girl who's also smart and nice and generally very cool…which leads to what may be the movie's weirdest scenes. There's something about a bunch of mutated turtle dudes macking on the girl who used to keep them in a little tank and feed them scraps of hamburger from her fingertips that's just a little bit discomfiting. Not super-creepy, because the turtles' attentions are so circumspect and goofy, but vaguely peculiar nonetheless.

On the other hand, that's also the kind of thing that keeps grownups engaged while the little kids are giggling at the turtles gobbling pizza (which leads to the movie's only fart gag) and teenagers are snickering at the online cat video jokes ("It's a cat that plays chopsticks…using chopsticks!") and being secretly impressed that the movie dares show Dr. Sacks' minions tasing the turtles so he can hook them up to tubes through which we see their life’s blood being siphoned off for future experiments. And the evil Shredder's (Tohoru Masamune) robo-samurai armor—which looks like the spawn of Mechagodzilla and a battle-optimized Swiss Army knife—really is all-ages spectacular. No matter how you spin it, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a light action-comedy about man-sized mutant terrapins with awesome martial-arts moves. But it's a pretty good one, and far more watchable than most kids’ movies that try to insist adults will enjoy them as well. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles doesn't insist on anything, just goes its own way and doesn't mind if you want to hang out with it.

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