If only every show was named in such a straightforward manner as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael—the main characters in Nickelodeon's new computer-animated rendering of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles—are indeed turtles. They're teenagers (though what that means in turtle years, I'm not really sure). They're mutants (after they wallowed around in a powerful, otherworldly substance called, helpfully, mutagen). And thanks to their adoptive father, the rat-mutant Splinter, they know how to ninja something fierce.
The turtles live in the sewer underneath New York City, but it's not nearly as bad as it sounds. Their pad is nice and clean, outfitted with everything that active, pizza-loving, human-hybrid reptiles could want. The only problem, really, is the neighborhood. Bad guys love to hang around the sewers too. The Kraang, a collective of brainish-like beings inhabiting cookie-cutter robots, keep bothering the turtles. And Splinter's old archenemy The Shredder shows up to make life even more challenging.
But these turtles are up for a fight or 2,000. If it wasn't for these visiting enemies, they'd simply eat pizza and play video games all day, and then someone would have to rename the show Teenage Mutant Lazy Turtles. Which, of course, no one would watch. Who wants to watch ninja turtles not get down and ninja?
So ninja they get. They fight like crazy, and the detailed animation gives the battles more violent depth and pop than the old 1980s cartoon could ever muster. No one is killed, but characters get hit and kicked and knocked out, and loads of robots lose their hands and arms and feet and heads (sending their inhabiting brains scurrying for safety).
Aside from that cartoony violence, there's little else to talk about here. The turtles fight off the bad guys, saving NYC from a fate worse than slime and sewage. While Splinter has a vague air of Eastern spirituality about him, we've not seen him discuss religion. His lessons appear to be more along the lines of general platitudes: Friendship is awesome, compassion is cool, defend what's right, that sort of thing. Foul language lives on the level of "darn" and "heck." Sexuality? Not in this TV-Y7 romp. And while there is a bit of crude humor now and then (they do live in a sewer, after all), it could be far, far, worse.
Nick's new show is more violently slapstick than its 1980s and '90s predecessor. But it still boasts much of the same hip-silly mutant DNA. And that's certainly not the worst thing that could fight its way into your family room today.
"It Came From the Depths"
Leatherhead, a mutant alligator, makes his Nick debut with a bang. And a crunch. And a smash. He dismantles a score of Kraang robots, ripping off their heads and arms, and throwing them into walls. (The brains all get away safely, but the robots themselves are a complete loss.) He also roughs up the ninja turtles, grabbing one by the head and fighting with the rest.
Michelangelo and Splinter suggest that Leatherhead is just misunderstood, and then they learn that he was cruelly abused by the Kraang. So the turtles soak up a valuable message about not judging someone too hastily and/or by how he looks.
Not that that keeps Splinter and Leatherhead from fighting. And one scene, in which decapitated robotic heads come alive again and robotic hands crawl on the floor, seems almost an homage to the horror flick convention. The turtles watch a sci-fi show wherein a "compassionate" captain solves a shipwide infestation of cute-but-annoying creatures by throwing them all in an airlock and jettisoning them into space.
Michelangelo spits a pizza-milkshake concoction back into the blender. We hear "heck" and "darn" a time or two each.