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Plugged In Rating
Content Caution
MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Drama, Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Kids
Cast
Megan Fox as April O'Neil; Will Arnett as Vern; William Fichtner as Eric Sacks; Tohoru Masamune as Shredder; voices of Alan Ritchson as Raphael; Noel Fisher as Michelangelo; Jeremy Howard as Donatello; Johnny Knoxville as Leonardo; Tony Shalhoub as Splinter
Director
Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the TitansBattle Los Angeles, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, Darkness Falls)
Distributor
Paramount Pictures
In Theaters
August 8, 2014
Reviewer
Bob Hoose
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

April O'Neil is a New York City TV news correspondent who's just trying to make her mark. But it's not quite as easy as she thought it would be. She's dedicated, focused, and you won't find a harder worker anyplace, but getting a decent break in this biz is nigh-on impossible.

The bigwigs back at the network office only see her as a pretty face worthy of cute little human interest stories about local bake sales and piano-playing kittens. But she wants to be on the street delivering real news, and she spends her off hours hunting for something that'll help her get there.

And then one night she finds it. Following up on a Foot Clan gang robbery story, she spies something happening on the waterfront. It's hard to see on the darkened docks, but it seems like a vigilante is fighting off a gang of baddies. This guy is leaping in and out of the shadows and taking down thugs with flying fists and feet of fury. He's amazing. And he just might be April's ticket to the newsroom.

The only trouble is, when she excitedly takes the tale back to her office, everybody looks at her as if she's nuts. A ninja superhero beating up bad guys? And no pictures? No alarms? No proof? Try again, little girl.

But April won't let go of the idea, and she keeps digging. Keeps searching with her cameraman Vern now securely in tow. And her persistence finally pays off. Her citizen warrior makes another appearance. Actually, she comes face-to-face with four super-duper hero types.

Actually, four six-foot-tall, talking … turtles, all wielding a small arsenal of martial arts weapons. And they've got these crazy names, too. Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo. They're all named after famous Renaissance figures, just like …

Suddenly April's thoughts leap back to when her scientist dad was still alive. She remembers him experimenting on—giving injections to—four little box turtles with Renaissance figure names.

Boy, they're never gonna believe this back at the station.

Positive Elements

The four human-sized (teenage) mutant turtles truly are ninjas, and along with their sensei, Splinter (a man-sized rat), they've been living in the sewers below the city. And it turns out that April was instrumental in setting them free there.

Splinter has taken on the role of the father—after having observed April's loving dad—and raises the turtles as his own. He raises his "boys" to be hardworking, honorable and disciplined, all the while teaching them ninjutsu. And the turtles have all worked hard to become heroes who are strong enough and brave enough to serve mankind in the world above. They use a Japanese symbol that means family as their calling card.

Raphael is the only one of the four who threatens to leave and go out on his own. But later he admits he said all that because he was afraid he couldn't live up to the others' honorable standards of discipline. He proceeds to voice his love for his brothers.

April's dad, in flashback, finds out that his scientific partner is plotting to use their study for a wicked pursuit … so he moves to destroy all their work. And he loses his life because of it. April puts her life on the line to save her new friends and keep a toxin from killing thousands.

Spiritual Content

Splinter lets the boys know that April is the "guardian spirit" he had often told them about, mostly because she once saved them from a lab fire. The turtles all bow to her in respect.

Sexual Content

April wears formfitting jeans and a low-cut top. Michelangelo makes early note of her sex appeal, saying, "She's so hot I can feel my shell tightening." He regularly coos his desire for her to be his girlfriend. And he suggests that she might invite some of her "hot" friends to also join the group.

During the credits, we see a pair of turtles scampering along a roofline in front of a revealing Victoria's Secret billboard. When people below turn to look in their direction, they quickly blend in by becoming part of the bra on the ad's model.

Violent Content

Though the ample doses of destruction are rarely bloody, they are often wince-worthy and/or deadly. In the course of all the hammering action, humans are slung about like rag dolls. People smash through subway car windows; are kicked numerous times in the head, face, throat and upper body; hit by speeding vehicles; caught up in fires and explosive eruptions; flung into concrete walls; and sent crunching into the side of a tree. Cars and a semi-truck (and the people in them) are thrown, flipped and sent tumbling in a mountainside avalanche.

A masked man is doused with a corrosive toxin that leaves his exposed skin festering and oozing as he dies an ugly death. One guy is knocked unconscious by a heavy piece of lab equipment. Another screams as he's consumed by fire. Foot Clan thugs manhandle a large group of innocents—intending to kill them—in an effort to draw out the turtles. Then the thugs take their lumps and thumps when the heroes do indeed show up. Large chunks of metal, concrete and other debris falls from a skyscraper, smashing to the ground in and around crowds of passersby.

Splinter and the turtles are handed quite a bit of painful pummeling as well. Foot Clan soldiers always tend to show up by the score, coming on strong with blazing automatic weaponry and cabled weapons that leave the turtles writhing on the ground from jolts of high-current electricity. On the other hand, the Foot Clan's leader, Shredder, enhanced by a mechanized suit of Japanese armor, is the equivalent of an army all on his own.

On his first encounter with the turtles, Shredder batters Splinter mercilessly—shooting out scores of sword blades and eventually leaving the rat-like creature senseless and covered in large chunks of fallen concrete and rebar. Several other times he does the same sort of torturous smackdown and battering stuff to the turtles. He almost cracks Raphael's shell open with his weighty metal foot. Fallen turtles are trussed up in cages with tubes draining their lifeblood (to be used in a vile plot).

[Spoiler Warning] It's revealed that the Foot Clan plans to cover the city in corrosive toxin—then rush in to "save the day" with a healing drug rendered from the Ninja Turtles' blood. But Shredder is finally sent falling from 20 stories up; he crashes to the pavement below, creating a small crater in the street.

Crude or Profane Language

Single uses of the s-word, "a--," "bada--," "numbnuts," "oh my god" and "jeez."

Drug and Alcohol Content

In flashback we see the tiny box turtles being injected with some kind of mysterious mutagen. Years later, the Foot Clan thugs steal containers of mutagens and other chemicals in hopes of repeating those same experiments. A Foot Clan soldier is given a foul toxin via gas mask. April injects three weakened Ninja Turtles with high doses of adrenaline; the drug makes them super-hyper and super-strong. A wounded Splinter is injected with a healing agent.

Other Negative Elements

One pizza-related flatulence joke. (Really, just one.)

Conclusion

Call it the age of the reboot. All manner of action pics from the '60s, '70s and '80s are receiving franchise refurbishings. And, hey, if the Apes can come back, why not the Turtles? Again. And again. (The last big-screen reboot was TMNT in 2007, and Nickelodeon very recently reworked the concept for a new TV show, too.)

This 2014 edition of the cowabunga quartet comes from Michael Bay's pumped-up Platinum Dunes production company. And it shows. The origin story is pumped up. The Foot Clan do-baddery is pumped up. And the turtles themselves are pumped up.

The cute, quick-flipping, joke-lobbing turtles of yore have been replaced with bulkier, rougher-looking, more muscularly threatening crime-fighters who toss around vehicles and fearsome foes far more often than they let loose a quirky quip. The nefarious Shredder is bigger and badder, too, of course. His gleaming robotic ninja suit bristles with razor-edged blades as he cracks noggins with the force of a pile driver. And once the final big battling half of the movie kicks in, well, hold on to your half shells 'cause there's a whole lotta bloodless obliteration, automatic weapon-blazing and scenery-chewing devastation comin' your way.

Perhaps the greatest flaw of this pic is that, well, that's about all you get. There are serious save-the-day heroics on display, to be sure. But if you're looking for characters to actually care about or story twists to marvel at or morals that extend beyond self-sacrifice and bravery, well, maybe a movie named Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn't really your thing. Or my thing. Or anybody's thing.

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