“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” was directed by Jonathan Liebesman, and written by Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec, and Evan Daugherty. It stars Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Pete Ploszek, and Jeremy Howard.
Most of the pre-emptive, speculative discussion surrounding the new “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” film has had to do with Michael Bay, the film’s infamous producer. Bay is extraordinarily popular and probably the most prominent action director working in Hollywood today. He is also a bit of a punching bag, to the extent that many have written this movie off merely due to his involvement, despite the fact that he isn’t even directing it. Director Jonathon Liebesman, a man with not nearly as much of a reputation, has only a handful of films to his name, perhaps most notably the abysmal “Battle Los Angeles” (which appropriately enough owed a great deal to Bay’s “Transformers”).
All of this might lead one to speculate that “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” would share the flaws of those films, which it doesn’t exactly. Granted, the humor in the film is childish and dopey, but it’s never as cringe-inducingly painful as it can be in some of Bay’s films. As for the action scenes, they work better here than in either of the aforementioned movies, both because the silliness of the film’s conceit makes it a lot easier to swallow and because you can generally tell what’s happening (it also helps that it’s not deafeningly loud). There are a few action sequences which are pretty fun and well-executed, including an chase scene on a snowy mountain (complete with avalanche) which feels like something out of a “Donkey Kong” game (in a good way).
It’s best to think of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles“ as a fun, disposable kids movie. For all its dumb silliness, I kind of enjoyed it on the shallowest possible level. If you go in looking for flaws, however, there are plenty to be found. Megan Fox and Will Arnett feel miscast and wasted respectively. Fox plays April O’Neill, a journalist who is always searching for the real story, despite perpetually getting lame, “frothy” assignments. To call this casting unconvincing is putting it mildly. Fox just doesn’t sell it. As for Will Arnett, he plays the comic relief character. He gets all the “funny” lines. There’s not much to his character beyond that. Arnett is a tremendously gifted comic actor, so it’s hard to not feel like he is squandered here.
As for the turtles themselves…they’re fine I guess. They have very broadly drawn personalities (there’s the leader, the tough guy, the nerd, and the funny one). The CGI looks pretty good. The character designs are different from the ones in the older movies. The heads of the turtles are rounder, and more human, which is initially kind of off-putting but is easy to adjust to.
At its worst the film feels lazy but it’s never really boring or unpleasant to watch, which is more than I can for Bay and Liebesman’s previous efforts. Its generic plot moves along at a decent clip, and at about 100 minutes is the perfect length for this sort of movie. There are a handful of “cool-looking” moments (some slow motion here and there, some surprisingly visceral action). I think kids will probably enjoy it.