Routine Ninja Turtles 'Out of the Shadows' serves up fun, forgettable CGI action for kids
Posted June 6, 2016
“TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS” — 2 stars — Megan Fox, Stephen Amell; Will Arnett, Tyler Perry and the voices of Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher and Jeremy Howard; PG-13 (sci-fi action violence); in general release
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” isn’t so much a movie as it is a product with a really long name. It’s 112 minutes of CGI mayhem, snappy catch phrases and a standard hero plot, all pieced together in a familiar formula.
Will the kids enjoy it? Most likely. Will they remember anything about it in six months? Most unlikely.
Director Dave Green’s follow-up to 2014’s franchise reboot opens with our heroes living lives of anonymity in New York City, fighting crime where needed then kicking back to watch Knicks games from inside the Madison Square Garden Jumbotron. All the regulars are back: Leonardo (voiced by Pete Ploszek), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher).
They may have put their arch nemesis Shredder (Brian Tee) behind bars, but ex-cameraman Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett) is taking all the credit, and the turtles’ alien appearance keeps them hidden away from society.
But no one is staying put for long. After a dramatic escape, Shredder teams up with a diabolical scientist named Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) to create an interdimensional portal that will deliver yet another bad guy: a half-robot, half-squid named Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett). To generate the portal, they need three pieces. Two are conveniently located in New York City. The third is in Brazil.
Luckily, the turtles’ intrepid female friend April O’Neil (Megan Fox) has been tracking Baxter and gets the heroes in a half-shell on the case. They are joined by a corrections cop with a knack for hockey named Casey Jones (Stephen Amell), but the bad guys are restocking as well. Baxter has used a special serum to turn a pair of ex-cons into the super-wart hog Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and the super-rhinoceros Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly).
The quest to stop Krang is tough enough, but when Donatello analyzes the serum, he makes a discovery that divides the group: by reverse-engineering the formula, the turtles could be converted into human form.
This modest plot serves as a jumping-off point for a series of entertaining action sequences, admittedly with some fun effects (none more so than the bizarre 3-D creation that is Krang). But it’s still disappointing to see yet another cast of superheroes battling out yet another dramatic climax in New York City against yet another CGI monster. Nine times out of 10, the new boss is the same as the old boss.
As for the performances, the CGI turtles still feel two-dimensional, and Fox and Arnett’s characters are around to be functional rather than fleshed-out. (Laura Linney also appears as NYPD Chief Vincent and seems grossly out of everyone else’s pay grade.)
Diehard fans old and young probably won’t care much, though. “Out of the Shadows” takes pains to pay homage to the characters and catch phrases that helped build the Ninja Turtles brand more than 20 years ago. The brothers aren’t exactly stuck in the ′90s, but the cowabunga dialogue, the surfing visuals and even the pizza eating feel like signature moves of a past era. (There’s even a sly reference to Vanilla Ice, who appeared in 1991’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II”).
Ultimately, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” leaves the sequel bar right where it’s always been. If the glass is half full, it’s because it’s a comparatively soft PG-13 that the kids may enjoy. If the glass is half empty, it’s because we drank the first half a long time ago and forgot about the rest.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence; running time: 112 minutes.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on "The KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. Find him online at facebook.com/joshterryreviews.