**** (out of 5)
March 23, 2007
Chris Evans as CASEY JONES
Sarah Michelle Gellar as APRIL O’NEIL
Make as MASTER SPLINTER
Kevin Smith as DINER
Patrick Stewart as MAX WINTERS
Laurence Fishburne as NARRATOR
Ziyi Zhang as KARAI
Mitchell Whitfield as DONATELLO
James Arnold Taylor as LEONARDO
Mikey Kelley as MICHAELANGELO
Nolan North as RAPHAEL
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Kevin Munroe
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
While I’ve been a comic book geek most of my life, I never got into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This wasn’t because it was a bad franchise, mind you. It was more that I was just a couple years too old to be in the target demographic.
By the time the first movie came out, I was graduating high school, and the sequel (featuring a then-cool Vanilla Ice) hit the screens when I was in college. If I had been five or six years younger, catching the turtles when I was still not yet a teenager, I’m sure this would have been a defining element of pop culture for me.
However, when I first saw the trailers for the new “TMNT,” I was excited. Instead of being muppets and rubber suits, or poorly drawn cartoons from a Korean animation chop shop, the turtles looked really, really cool. Yeah, there were the tongue-in-cheek teenage quips, with burps and cowabungas thrown in for good measure, but from a glimpse of the trailer, it looked like they set out to make a decent film.
I missed the early press screening for the movie, so I had to catch it at a midnight show. Normally a rowdy crowd, this midnight mob was helped the movie along. Only the most rabid TMNT fans would go out to see a PG movie on a Thursday in March on midnight. And rabid fans, they were.
“TMNT” apparently ignores the third live-action film in the series, but stays consistent with the first two, in which the turtles defeat their nemesis Shredder. As the movie begins, it’s clear there’s a backstory for the fans. There’s references to previous films (including an opening title sequence featuring “the ooze” and a narration summing up the earlier episodes). However, even with a story that basically starts in the middle of a franchise, it’s pretty easy to catch up.
The turtles are estranged from one another. Leonardo has traveled to South America to train and learn better leadership skills. Back home, Donatello and Michaelangelo are slacking off while Raphael has become a lone vigilante.
April O’Neil convinces Leonardo to come back and join the team. This is fortunate because at the same time, an immortal has come to New York to open a portal to another dimension. He resurrects ancient warriors to help him capture monsters that have been unleashed. The turtles catch wind of this, and they join the fight.
Sure, this isn’t the most complex or intricate plot in the world, but I wasn’t expecting that. It is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, after all. The film has a full CGI work-up, and the animation is quite stunning. It’s got a gritty, grimy look – but they live in the sewers of New York, so it fits. Like “The Incredibles,” it’s not so much a cartoon as a stylized version of reality… only with mutant turtles.
I couldn’t help it. I was sucked into this movie. It wasn’t the beginning and end to comic book presentations, but it had that spark and excitement that made it fun to watch. In the end, it’s really nothing more than an overblown Saturday morning cartoon, but it didn’t need to be anything more than that. The turtles rocked, and I had a blast.
I may not have been a fan as a kid, but I am now. Consider me hooked.