At The Picture Show
Heroes in a half-shell
Come on, sing along, all you disenchanted twentysomethings wondering where
your youth went! The Turtles are back...kinda
Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Kevin Munroe
Screenplay: Kevin Munroe, based on comic book and characters created by Kevin
Eastman and Peter Laird
Starring the voices of:Nolan North, James Arnold Taylor, Chris Evans, Sarah
Michelle Gellar, Patrick Stewart, Ziyi Zhang, Mako, Mitchell Whitfield and Mikey
Rated PG / 1 hour, 30 minutes
Opened May 25, 2007
(out of four)
So let me get this straight - the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are popular again?
What am I, 10? When did this happen? Should I call my mom and have her get
all my old Turtle toys and memorabilia out? Is this a retro thing? Because if my
Michelangelo action figure that paddles and floats in the bathtub is some sort of
collector's item, I'd like to know about it.
Or more likely, the new TMNT was made out of a sense of nostalgia for a
phenomenon that hit its peak more than a decade ago. If it has introduced a new
generation of children to Turtle Power, I'm all for it. Even if, looking back, the
whole Ninja Turtle thing seems like it was created by a pair of stoned teenagers
using a random word generator. I really don't get it - but that doesn't mean I can't
Maybe coming out with a new Turtles film in 2007
is genius on the part of writer/director Kevin Munroe. The 18-to-24 demographic
is the most coveted of all, and we all loved the Ninja Turtles. Anyone who didn't
is probably a Communist.
As it is, the new film - which thankfully does away with the bastardized new
TMNT cartoon that turned Splinter into a crime-fighter - isn't really geared
toward people my age, even if we are the only ones who can fully appreciate it at
this point. After all, we were the ones who lined up on opening day to see the
original live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie on March 30, 1990. We
all loved these guys. They were our childhood heroes. We could watch them with
admiration and say to ourselves - "Yes...I, too, love pizza. I, too, feel like an
outsider." I'm tempted to write a pretentious undergrad theoretical piece
comparing Raphael to Holden Caulfield, but I'll resist.
All kidding aside, TMNT is a good movie for kids, but not much more. It's a bit
like last year's Curious George, a movie I liked but which was geared almost
exclusively toward children. Curious George worked because it didn't pander or
anything like that - it just knew how to simplify story, character and even
animation. Like that film, TMNT is not as sophisticated or mature as most modern
animated features in the digital Pixar era.
It doesn't have the ambition - the desire to appeal equally to kids and grown-ups -
of successful films like Shrek, The Incredibles and The Iron Giant, but at the same
time it doesn't fail as miserably as such imitators as Madagascar and Valiant,
among others. It knows what it is. The story is easy to digest, and every bit as
simple and childish as the Saturday morning cartoon, and that has its delights. For
those of us who recognize and know the characters already, maybe there's a little
extra for us.
As we all know, Raphael is the greatest Turtle of all
- the sarcastic, rebellious rogue who thinks for himself and is hesitant to embrace
the outdated collectivism of Splinter's world ethos.
In TMNT, he's once again having his problems with that little sissy Leonardo, and
once again, they will all come together to defeat the bad guys - in this case, a
bunch of ancient warriors brought back from the dead. The warriors are under the
control of industrial tycoon Max Winters (voiced by Patrick Winters), who was
their leader 3,000 years ago before he was granted the gift of immortality and they
were turned to stone. Now, in modern-day New York City, he's bringing them all
back from the dead in order to...well, he keeps his intentions secret (except to
adults who have ever seen a movie).
The Turtles, meanwhile, still live in their derelict, but strangely charming,
underground bachelor pad in the sewers, but they've gone their separate ways -
Leonardo has been gone for years learning how to be a better leader, Raphael is
secretly fighting crime at night under an assumed identity. Donatello and
Michaelangelo have gone the entrepreneurial route in ways only they could pull
off. And Splinter is a borderline hokey Asian stereotype. Whatever...kids won't
Other familiar characters return, including April
O'Neil and Casey Jones, who are living together and having relationship
problems. Casey, it seems, has commitment issues. OK then...maybe this is the
one aspect of the film that kids couldn't possibly care less about. (Speaking of
which, I doubt the studio really needed to spend this much money on voice talent.
Really, do we really need Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ziyi Zhang? Do kids really
care about audio star power? I don't think so.)
The most impressive thing about TMNT is the artistry of the animation,
particularly that of the various creatures that pop up over the course of the story.
In fact, I wish the film had done more with the creatures, which are only on screen
for brief moments - they look so great, they deserve more screen time and
probably a bigger part in the plot.
The film's visuals stand out more than anything else
in the film. The animation style may be overly derivative of films like The
Incredibles and at times the film may feel too much like a Saturday morning
cartoon instead of a movie. But as I said, that works to its advantage. You know
- for kids! TMNT isn't a bad movie...but it's not exactly good, either. However,
that's only true for adults, and that is not the target audience. And after all, we are
talking about giant mutated turtles that eat pizza and fight crime.
Read more by Chris Bellamy