Ok, let’s just get this out of the way; Michael Bay is not at fault here. Mr. Bay, the notorious director who has been blamed for tainting yet another childhood cartoon franchise on the big screen, received some more angry words from shell-shocked fans when he was announced as the producer of the first live action “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie in 21 years. The turtles in question, which started as a comic book and a TV series in the 1980s, then a movie franchise in the 1990s, have gained a new generation of fans thanks to a Nickelodeon TV series. Now, Nickelodeon Movies have backed a feature film complete with (brief) action, (nonthreatening) danger, and… turtle sex jokes.
Yes, the 2014 “Turtles” movie is as immature and underdeveloped as one would imagine. Taking place in New York City, “driven” reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is tired of doing fluff pieces and wants to cover real stories. When she starts investigating the actions of a terrorist group called The Foot Clan, she also meets the mean green ninjitsu vigilantes who fight The Foot. Soon, she discovers her previous history with Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael and their master rat, Splinter. She also learns that corporate big shot Eric Sacks (William Fichtner), who also has a history with April, is in cahoots with The Foot and their leader, Shredder. Shredder and Sacks have an evil plan to poison New York City and put a hefty price tag on the cure, so it’s up to April, her cameraman Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett), and the Turtles to kick shell and take names.
Now whether it’s because she was pregnant during the movie or she knew this film was not as artistically on par as her previous work, Megan Fox is awful in this movie. She’s not annoying, just phoning it in so obviously that the word “vigilante” is beaten into blandness every time she says it. Her character says she wants to be like “all the great journalists” without a single name of a great journalist mentioned (maybe she thinks “Access Hollywood” is missing some Pulitzers), so she clearly did her research. Even when she speaks above a bland octave, it’s hilarious how it doesn’t do anything. William Fichtner is, as always, bland and creepy like an unfunny Christopher Walken, so he’s useless. Will Arnett, however, is anything but useless as the comic relief (meaning the only thing funny in the movie). It’s impossible not to commend Arnett for really trying in such a limp feature.
Now when it comes to the title characters, you pretty much get what you’d expect. The motion capture technology used to bring the Turtles to life is moderately impressive and not as creepy up close as the Internet keeps emphasizing (Splinter actually looks creepier than the Turtles). In fact, the special effects-laden action here is moderately impressive, if only it was edited like a visible film and not by a spastic man on a sugar rush. The action here is brief and in short supply, obviously to make room for the obligatory pizza puns, product placement, a god awful rap theme song, “cowabunga!” and “heroes in a half shell” quips (spoiler alert, no mention of turtle power anywhere). Besides all that, there’s nerdy Donatello, stern leader Leo, lone wolf Raph, and annoying “duuuuuude” Mikey in cardboard cut out action movie stereotypes.
If anything good can be taken away from this, it’s that it is mercifully short. Only 101 minutes long and easily forgettable, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is Nickelodeon using two famous names (Michael Bay and Megan Fox) to cash in on their latest cartoon kid fest (which is odd considering the film’s PG-13 rating). If you’re a fan of the “Ninja Turtles,” stay away from this movie. If you have kids who like the current cartoon, show them the original movie from 90s, not this movie. If you’re looking for a big, stupid action to give your brain a rest, this isn’t even worthy of that distinction. It’s nothing more than a waste of time, like a shortened, less good looking version of “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”
Final Verdict: 1 out of 4 stars