Unless you're an 8-year-old just getting acquainted with them, you probably made up your mind about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles long, long ago. After all, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's heroes in a half-shell debuted 30 years ago, when their cheeky action adventures had the foresight to spoof the '80s even while they were happening.
So that leaves it to me to describe the reboot by Jonathan Liebesman, a Hollywood go-to-guy for mid-range horror pictures and action flicks no one else wants ("Wrath of the Titans," anyone?). Look, despite the looming presence of crap-maestro Michael Bay as producer, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" isn't so terrible. It fits the brief, as it were, with some variations on the concept that don't challenge the fundamentals, four of which are in the title. So the TMNT -- Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello -- study ninjitsu under a similarly mutated rat named Splinter (to whom an unbilled Tony Shalhoub gives voice) and make their debut as vigilantes battling back the criminal Foot Clan.
This gets the attention of fluff-piece reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox), who aspires to serious journalism and turns out to have all sorts of history with the people and creatures currently making news: industrialist Eric Sachs (William Fichtner), the Turtles and Splinter. Pulling the strings of the Foot Clan is Shredder (Tohoru Masamune), a big guy in a robotic samurai suit who seems to have escaped from one of Bay's "Transformers" flicks. O'Neil's surprising ties to the Turtles may rankle purists, but to be fair, this isn't "War and Peace." It's a movie with a nunchuk-wielding reptile standing over 6 feet tall, drooling over pizza and making boner jokes about Megan Fox. So we can be choosy about what we complain about.
To be fair to "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," it's aimed squarely at action-loving tykes, and they'll duly love it. The script is an unironic throwback to '80s action movies (OK, some irony when they make Batman cracks), and though the blank Fox is less a star than a placeholder, her foil is Will Arnett as a funny cameraman. Most of the one-liners are pretty lame, but kids won't agree, and they'll be held rapt by the head-spinning (3D, if you want it) action, from acrobatic fights to an insane chase down a snowy mountain and a climax over Times Square ripped wholesale from "The Amazing Spider-Man 2."
And what does it all amount to? Nothing more than a seemingly self-descriptive bit of scripting uttered by Arnett: "Froth. It's nice."
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence. One hour, 41 minutes.
This story contains 526 words.
If you are a paid subscriber, check to make sure you have logged in. Otherwise our system cannot recognize you as having full free access to our site.
If you are a paid print subscriber and haven't yet set up an online account, click here to get your online account activated.