Generally there are only three types of kids movies: Genuinely good movies like Frozen and Inside Out are the rare breed. More often what you see is either aggressively bad, like Angry Birds, or aggressively stupid, like this weekend’s new release Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.
Were you a TMNT fan as a kid? So was I! Did you see Michael Bay’s reboot of the franchise in 2014? Me too! Did you think that Michael Bay had ruined your childhood? Me too…for a second,. Then, I went back and watched some old episodes of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Saturday morning cartoon with my kids.
It turns out this garbage was never good or funny. We were just idiots!
Before we review the movie, I do have to tell you about the trailer for the new Tarzan movie that preceded the film at my screening at Regal’s Crossroads 20 in Cary. Nothing about the movie seems particularly engaging, but the trailer ends with a man punching a gorilla in the face. I mean, could the timing for this be any better?
Okay, so Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (or TMNT:OOTS as it will now be called because typing sucks) opens with Shredder in prison. Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo (who all look like that ball of mucus that is dressed like Ralph Cramden in the Mucinex commercials) cannot reveal themselves as heroes, so they stay in the shadows (see where this is going?) while Will Arnett’s goofy cameraman Verne is passed off as the man that saved New York City.
The turtles and April O’Neil (Meagan Fox) continue to carry out secret missions to keep the city safe. They have stumbled upon a conspiracy that involves Tyler Perry helping Shredder and his foot clan.
Now, within the five minutes of the movie starting we find out that April has no idea how far three feet. She is on some kind of communications device talking to Donatello who tells her to hack into Dr. Tyler Perry's email she has to be within three feet of him. We see her look across the restaurant then look down at what I will call her "hacking machine" and it is flashing the words "out of range." At this point April pouts as if she thought she thought the average room in a house was three feet across.
We also see April change into an unnecessarily sexy school girl outfit. This montage is complete with stripper montage music (family entertainment!).
Perry, who plays a scientist whose name doesn’t matter, because come on, it's Tyler Perry, helps organize a plot to break Shredder out of prison while he and two prisoners named Bepop (played inexplicably by the 50-something dad of Malcolm’s asthmatic friend from Malcolm in the Middle) and Rocksteady (I don’t know, but he is only Irish like every other line) are being transported to a more secure facility by young upstart corrections officer Casey Jones (Arrow’s Stephen Amell). This scene features a lot of casual, yet grizzly murder. Between breaking Shredder out of the transport vehicle and getting him into the helicopter (because it’s a Michael Bay movie) he is sucked into an interdimensional portal.
So now we’re introduced to the anthropomorphic brain Krang, who wants to use Shredder to invade the Earth. Honestly, if you’re over eight, you’re going to forget this plot point anyway, so who cares?
Alright, so I think from there you get an idea of what happens. Let’s just talk about why this movie proves Hollywood hates you and your kids, who they obviously think are morons and let’s face it. If they dragged you to this movie, Hollywood may have a point.
Here are a few things that are really hard to get over. TMNT:OOTS takes place in a New York City that has virtually no security cameras. It kind of makes sense. It’s not like there has ever been a terrorist event in that city that has kept its citizens and first responders in a constant state of high alert for the last 15 years.
Also, at some point the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have become Spider-Man. The 1990s cartoon featured the brothers occasionally doing skateboard tricks as they ran through the sewers underneath the city. This movie features them doing swan dives off of the Chrysler Building and sailing over the streets below. This is not only outside of the norm for these characters, but reminds me of something I not only read about in biology class, but later observed with my own eyes - turtles have never in the history of earth flown.
Alright, now let’s talk about Casey Jones. Fans of the original series will remember the hockey-mask-wearing vigilante as one of the turtles’ coolest allies. He barely dons his signature hockey mask in this movie! Oh, and he is apparently the only member of the NYPD that grew up in New York. You know all those cops that end up in Manhattan after being recruited from the Clayton police department? Yeah, Casey Jones isn’t one of them. But brother, does he drive a Camaro!
Finally, we have to address the giant warthog and rhinoceros in the room. Bebop and Rocksteady are gross even by Nickelodeon (producers of this movie) standards. Every joke they make is them farting or burping or discussing how well endowed they are. No, I’m not joking.
At one point in the movie, after those characters are turned from humans into animal soldiers, they are fed barrels of spaghetti. Now, I may be selling the New York culinary scene short, but there is no way you can reasonably suspend disbelief enough to accept that Shredder and the Foot Clan found and fully prepared two barrels full of spaghetti and meatballs. It’s not just the cooking. The presentation was also on point.
Your kid, particularly your son, will want to see this movie if he learns it exists. My advice would be to do everything you can to keep him in the dark. Your life will be better for it and whether or not he believes it now, so will his.
Demetri Ravanos is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and has reviewed movies for Raleigh and Company, Military1.com and The Alan Kabel Radio Network. He can be heard weekday mornings from 6-10 on "The Morning Show with Mike, Lauren and Demetri" on Buzz Sports Radio.