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After nearly two decades of fighting bad guys together, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are on the outs. Master Splinter has sent Leonardo to the jungles of South America to take his leadership skills to the next level. But in his absence, Michelangelo has been goofing off, entertaining kids at birthday parties with an oversized turtle mask. Donatello has succumbed to his inner geek and is now working as a one-turtle IT help desk. Raphael has continued pursuing vigilante justice, but he's becoming more and more resentful of his absent big brother.
The turtles' human friend April O'Neal convinces Leonardo to return to the Big Apple, and just in time. Wealthy art collector Max Winter is amassing a collection of statues that are more than meets the eye, and April becomes suspicious. It turns out that Winter's no ordinary art aficionado, but a centuries-old warrior king who made a huge mistake 3,000 years ago when he gained immortality at the expense of having all his generals turned to stone.
At the same time, 13 monsters were accidentally released from the other world into ours. Now, he has the opportunity to right his wrong, and he'll go to almost any length to do so—including making an alliance with the Foot Clan of ninjas. With the help of these shady characters, he is collecting the monsters and the stone generals in hopes of breaking the curse. But when the generals mutiny, chaos ensues. Will Sensei Splinter pull the turtles together in time to avert disaster? Didn't everyone lose interest in Teenage Turtles 10 years ago?
When Raphael gets fed up with his brothers, Splinter, the rat who is the turtles' teacher, says, "Each of your brothers has strengths and weaknesses. You must learn to be strong when they are weak." Sensing the brothers' discord, he advises the four, "Until you can act as one, you are forbidden to fight [the enemy]." Once they finally get their act together, the brothers declare, "We live together, we train together, we fight together, we stand for good together."
Second to the theme of brotherhood is that of leadership. Since Leonardo is the oldest and has been trained as a leader, Splinter holds him to a higher standard: "There are no excuses when you are the leader." A major part of the conflict between Raphael and Leonardo is Raph's unwillingness to follow his brother's leadership. When Leo tries to assuage his brother by explaining that his absence was for the purpose of becoming a better leader, Raphael spits back, "Whoever said I wanted to be led? I'm done taking orders." Splinter helps out by reminding Raphael that he's a leader too, but that his leadership qualities must be "tempered with humility and compassion." In the end, Raphael willingly submits to his older brother.
At times, the brothers follow in Splinter's philosophical footsteps. When Leonardo returns from the jungle, he apologizes for staying away longer than necessary: "I was so caught up in my own world, I forgot about everyone else. I'm sorry I failed." Later, he says to Raphael, "Funny thing about anger: let it consume you and soon enough, you lose sight of everything."
Though Splinter's words are generally wise, they're wrapped up in images of Eastern religion. He seems to always be meditating or "centering" himself, and he surrounds himself with candles.
The audience learns that Winter was able to achieve immortality by receiving power from another world when a certain set of stars aligned and a portal was opened to that realm. No elaboration is given as to the nature of that world or its power, but it seems that the stars are about to realign and the portal will soon reopen.
When Winter breaks the curse and becomes mortal again, he says he's found his way home. He rises into the air and his body atomizes into a cloud of light and gold dust. No comment is made on where he has gone.
A boy says he's seen "the ghost of the jungle," but it turns out to be Leonardo in a hooded robe.
It's implied that April and her beau, Casey, are engaging in cartoon cohabitation. Nothing sexual is mentioned—it just looks like they're living together and it's clear they're not married. In fact, Casey says he's not really ready for that: "I don't know if I can be the grown-up she needs me to be." The two kiss at the end of the story.
Digital cartoon and martial-arts violence are what TMNT is all about. The turtles and their enemies kick and sword fight their way through the whole thin plot. Just about everyone has a machete, a sword or a sai (a three-pronged dagger). Soldiers and thugs carry guns and point them at people and turtles. A monster body slams his opponents with his huge spiked arms. Another monster bites Raphael—hard—and is rewarded by a sound smack to the head with a frying pan. The turtle then feeds him smoke bombs and sends him on his way. A third monster crashes through an exhibit hall and gets sucked into the vortex created by the portal's opening. The stone generals fire drugged darts at their enemies.
For the most part, the turtles and their friends work together to defeat evil forces, but at the height of the sibling rivalry between Raph and Leo, the younger brother has the older flat on his back with a sword at his throat. A corrupt soldier shoves a girl to the ground and rips off her necklace. He also slaps another soldier's head. April falls through a trapdoor, but isn't badly injured. A bad guy almost gets hit by a car. A turtle dangles from the edge of a tall building.
Crude or Profane Language
One character exclaims "dios mio!" ("my god!" in Spanish). One turtle brother teases another, "[The monster] looked like your mom, dude." "Your mom" jokes also pop up during the closing credits.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Nothing beyond those drugged darts.
Other Negative Elements
The verbal sparring between Raphael and Michelangelo sometimes gets intense. For example, Raph declares, "I don't even care about Leo anymore!"
After Winter disappears in a cloud of dust, Michelangelo is grossed out by the thought that he might be breathing in that dust. Elsewhere, Michelangelo lets out a gigantic belch.
Long-time Turtles fans (there are still a few left) will certainly be curious to see what Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello look like in CGI. I have to admit I was impressed by the rendering of rain, metal, and the brothers' new-and-improved turtle skin. Not much else has changed, though. Not the spiritual undertones. And especially not the omnipresent martial-arts violence that can—and often does—lead to imitation by young human ninja wannabes. The turtles say, "I hate it when brothers fight ... Unless it's together!" Parents are liable to respond, "Does together make it better?"
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Voices of Mitchell Whitfield as Donatello; James Arnold Taylor as Leonardo; Mikey Kelley as Michelangelo; Nolan North as Raphael/The Night Watcher; Sarah Michelle Gellar as April O'Neal; Chris Evans as Casey Jones; Patrick Stewart as Max Winters; Mako as Master Splinter; Lawrence Fishburne as The Narrator
Kevin Munroe ( Dylan Dog: Dead of Night)