Written By: Traves Bezenar
Of all the cartoons of my childhood “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ was far and above my favorite. I watched it religiously, had all the toys, had the movies on VHS, and even had the CD of the horrible stage musical they put on. Basically, when it comes to the turtles, I’m as big of a shell-head as you’re ever going to find. Now that we’ve acknowledged my bias we can get down to the business of reviewing the movie. ‘TMNT: Out of the Shadows’ opened domestically this week with a pretty good showing managing to pull in just over $35M which is admittedly down significantly from the $65M the previous film raked in on it’s opening weekend. However, the summer hasn’t been kind to sequels so far this year and that could be a huge contributing factor.
I’m not going to lie and tell you that this movie is perfect, it’s not, but it does have some really good qualities worth mentioning. Firstly the casting is great. All of the turtles have their own distinct personality, neurosis, strengths, and weaknesses just like they did when you were a child. Megan Fox is also great as April O’Neil in this incarnation. Fox portrays the character as a strong, confident, and capable woman that is just as much of a threat as her teenage mutant ninja cohorts. Will Arnett also returns to reprise his role as Vern ‘The Falcon’ Fenwick and he’s honestly one of the highlights of the movie in my humble opinion. Sadly not all the casting was spot, Stephen Amell as Casey Jones fell really flat for me. He just doesn’t have that hard New Yorker attitude that is associated with Jones.
Another highpoint for ‘TMNT: Out of the Shadows’ is the CGI. I know a lot of people are unhappy with the way the turtles came out design wise but regardless of that, the models looks fantastic. There are points in the film where the turtles are either soaked or in bright light where you really get to see just how hard the FX team worked on bringing the turtles to life. Everything is crisp, clear, and vibrant, a nice change from some of the CGI heavy films we see these days which tend to rely on low lighting to help mask their shortcomings.
The plot of the movie is where things start to fall apart a little, There isn't anything glaringly wrong with the plot itself, everything just moves really fast. Characters pop in and out of the story quickly which I’m not a fan of. Krang for instance appears for about three minutes of screen time in the first act and isn’t seen or heard from again until the last fifteen minutes of the movie. In a way the plot is a lot like the 90’s TMNT cartoon where everything has to move fast to fit into a thirty minutes time slot minus commercials. If you can look past the quick cuts, minor plot holes, and exposition there’s a lot of fun to be had here.
The final point of contention comes in the overall tone of the film. The previous live action TMNT movies from the 90’s and even the one from 2014 had a bit of edge to them. The villains were scary and at times there was a little suspense like whether or not Splinter live. This sequel throws that lineage out the window and goes after the campy humor that the 90’s cartoon was known for. This is a family comedy through and through, and there isn't anything inherently wrong with that. The humor consists mostly of fart jokes and gross out moments that are clearly meant for a younger audience. A lot of that humor comes from the villains Bebop and Rocksteady, who are hilarious in that juvenile way that Jackass and CKY are hilarious. So if nuanced and subtle humor is more your speed, you probably won’t care for this movie too much.
‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows’ isn’t going to win any Oscars and a hardcore movie snob probably isn't going to like it. However, if you grew up a fan of the 90’s cartoon like I did, have kids, or are a kid yourself than you’ll probably walk away from this one feeling like you got your money’s worth. To put it simply, the movie isn’t a masterpiece but it is worth watching.