Monday, June 6, 2016

Movie Review #434: "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows" (2016)

Movie"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows"
Director: Dave Green
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 52 minutes
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Since defeating Shredder (Brian Tee), the turtles have continued to defend the city in secret, unable to take credit for their actions. When a scientist named Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) uses a teleporter to free Shredder from prison, it sends Shredder to another dimension where he meets Krang (Brad Garret), a maniacal alien who wants to rule the world. Krang tells Shredder the location of a machine that will open an inter-dimensional portal that will allow Krang to bring his war machine, the Technidrome, to Earth so he can conquer it. Now, it's up to the turtles to stop these monsters before they destroy the world.

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows" is the second installment in the Michael Bay-produced series. This time around, however, Dave Green takes over directorial duties from Jonathan Liebesman, who directed the film from 2014. If we're being honest, we utterly hated the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie from 2 years ago. It was one of our picks for the worst of the worst list that year. When the trailer for this latest installment came out, it didn't do much to persuade us it was going to be much better. We feared this would be just another crappy sequel to an already crappy movie.

The most important part of any movie to us is entertainment value. We seldom enjoyed the last one, which sucks because we're fans of the 80's cartoons and the 90's films and wanted to appreciate it for bringing us an updated look at the turtles. Much to our shock and dismay, we are pleased to report "Out of the Shadows" is exponentially better than the first installment and manages to be both fun and nostalgic. This time around, the filmmakers did an interesting (and unexpected) thing by actually listening to fans of the original series, as well as the detractors of 2014's disappointing attempt. They heard the complaints and did their best to correct the errors while continuing the story they had already started telling. First off, many of the returning characters have been changed this time around. Brian Tee takes over the role of Shredder. Here, Tee is an actual guy playing the character, not someone hiding in a Transformers cosplay suit yucking it up for cheap thrills. Tee gets lots of screen time and bears the same scars and facial expressions as Shredder from the other sources. When he put his Shredder helmet on for the first time, we wanted to shriek for joy like little kids because it was just so cool. What a great choice for this role! Second, the Foot Clan actually resemble ninjas this time around and don't look like mercenaries that just stepped off of the latest Michael Bay war film. Three important new characters are added into the fold, too. Bebop and Rocksteady, played by Gary Anthony Williams and WWE's Sheamus respectively, star as this dynamic duo, first in human form, then in their warthog and rhinoceros animated counterparts. The animation on both Bebop and Rocksteady is awesome, and the CGI as a whole feels like a vast improvement. Finally, "Out of the Shadows" also introduces the highly anticipated character Krang, voiced by Brad Garrett, who looks like he was pulled right out of the cartoon and thrown onto the silver screen. The turtles as characters finally look less like giant six foot giant with nostrils and actually look much more cartoon turtle-like. The personalities they display here mirror the source material much better than they did in the 2014 film, too.

Of course, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows" still has a lot of problems. Megan Fox is back playing April O'Neil, and we would rather jam pencils in our ears than hear her speak. Luckily, this time around, her role is toned down a bit. The new version of the character of Casey Jones is very disappointing. He doesn't really have much to do in the film, and Stephen Amell's performance as Jones leaves a lot to be desired. The plot itself is extremely flimsy, and the entire thing is loaded with scenes of exposition where characters explain everything to the audience like we're children, but hey, the target audience is for kids, so what do you expect? Finally, some might see the constant fan service as merely pandering. It does its best to be nostalgic, which is something we missed last time, and isn't necessarily a bad thing. What's wrong with giving fans what they want and understanding your target audience? Young kids will probably enjoy the humor and the action as well as the visual spectacle, and that fan service will allow adults who grew up watching the 1980's cartoon to feel connected to this turtles universe.

In the end, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows" is worlds better than its 2014 counterpart. Clearly, it's intended for 10-13 year old boys, but we still have to give credit where credit is due. We didn't feel like we wanted to saw our heads off when we left the theater after this was over, and we even stayed well into the credits to hear the movie's awesome, retro sounding theme song, complete with a nod to Vanilla Ice's "Ninja Rap." Despite its faults, it's still mostly entertaining. Sometimes, the critics get it wrong, and we think the majority of them are being a bit stodgy about this one. Maybe it's because we have a soft spot in our hearts for our little green friends, but this attempt deserves much more praise. It manages to find its way "out of the shadows" and shakes itself free from the multiple layers of disgusting muck left looming over the franchise by its turd of a predecessor.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: ~6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~36%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "Pootie Tang"

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