Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Worst Sin a Movie Can Commit

. . . has been committed by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Well, it's August, which is often the dumping ground for releases trying for a their own ray of summer sunshine before Labor Day brings in more prestige pictures and we move into the serious Oscar fare. (Not exclusively, of course - Dumb & Dumber Too is a November release and Hot Tub Time Machine 2 [to answer all those nagging questions from the first one, no doubt] is a Christmas Day release). Anyway, back to the ninja reptiles.

The Turtles have been around since the mid 1980s. Beginning in comic book form, the snappy patter and mad martial arts skillz of the mutated terrapins were intended to parody some of the most popular comics of that time, including Marvel's Daredevil, Dave Sim's Cerebus, and Frank Miller's Ronin. Very quickly, the parody outstripped the source material in terms of popularity, no doubt aided by the first cartoon incarnation and unending tie-in merchandise. TMNT movies have appeared before so the Powers That Be (including producer Michael Bay; well, at least he didn't direct) must've felt that the time was right for another tale of the turtles.

Maybe.  But not this one. Look - here's my issue with this movie. It's dull. 

Oh, sure, I could point out that the reliance on hand-held camera work to cheat what's being shown is nausea-inducing, or that plot holes are gigantic (if you're using a rocket filled with deadly toxins to poison an entire city, maybe it's not a good marketing decision to put your company's logo on the rocket!) or that there's exposition well into what should be the third act (seriously - the villainous scientist [played by the always reliable William Fichtner] takes the time to Explain the Plan to his captive victims - mwa-ha-ha!), but whatever. The biggest problem here isn't Megan Fox (who's actually okay in this picture. Maybe she figured out that it's a joke and she decided to be in on it). No, the biggest problem is that the film is just meh. The CGI isn't very good, especially for a movie with an estimated $125 million budget. I was even willing to give that a pass - maybe director Jonathan Liebesman (Battle Los Angeles) wanted to go for a more cartoon-y feel - but the story is just not captivating, which is a shame in a picture with three (count 'em - three!) "daddy issue" storylines.

I acknowledge that the audience in the theater when I saw this seemed to very much enjoy the whiz-bang-boom! aspects, but I think part of that had to do with (1) dads who enjoyed the original Turtles wanting to share that with their kids and (2) realizing how much they'd paid to see this movie, they were grimly determined to enjoy it. Oh, and think about the level of violence before you take the young fry - it's rated PG-13 for a reason and there were far too many six-year-olds in that theater for my taste.

If you want to share the Turtles with your kids, use the cartoons.  Click here to start!

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