TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
DIRECTED BY Jonathan Liebesman
STARS Megan Fox, Will Arnett
There's a moment late in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when one of our shell-stocked heroes woos plucky reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox) by playing the song "Happy Together." The joke, of course, is that the group behind that classic song was The Turtles, but this fact isn't mentioned in the movie, meaning it's the only gag over the course of 100 minutes that's targeted at adults. The rest of the film, though, seems aggressively geared toward kids who aren't particularly bright.
Then again, that's generally the modus operandi of Michael Bay, who's attached as producer and whose sticky fingers are all over this thing (the director is Jonathan Liebesman, helmer of such junk as Battle Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans). The major problem with this latest TMNT product — well, aside from its impersonal nature, mediocre performances, sloppy script and unseemly visual style — rests with the title characters themselves. I was decidedly not a fan of the three live-action TMNT films that appeared in the 1990s, but in retrospect, maybe placing four actors in cheap turtle suits wasn't such a bad idea. It certainly trumps the approach here, which is to use CGI to make hulking monstrosities out of Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo and Donatello (unless you're a fan, you'll need more than their color-coordinated headbands to tell them apart). Looking as if they've been ingesting steroids their entire lives, these ripped reptiles are almost as visually off-putting as their mentor, the rat Splinter, all of them created in a mock-realistic style when all anyone really desires is pure fantasy.
The action set-pieces are choreographed fairly well, and there's a climactic skirmish between the quartet and the villainous Shredder (Tohoru Masamune), set atop a towering edifice, that delivers the goods. For these reasons, I'll graciously give these heroes in a half-shell an extra half-star.
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