by Adam Riske
Imagine a student who takes a midterm and gets an F. Then he or she takes the final exam and gets a C-. Should we be pleasantly surprised that student didn’t fall flat on his or her face again? No, not really. We should expect more out of them. Such is the case with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. Why this movie is getting a pass from some just for being better than the truly wretched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), I’m sure I don’t know. To be fair, I enjoyed some of the new Turtles film: about 1/8 genuinely, 3/8 ironically and 4/8 not at all.
1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie but the evidence that this series sucks is piling up: Secret of the Ooze (bad), Turtles III (bad), TMNT (bad), the 2014 reboot (bad) and now Out of the Shadows (bad). We should have known that the odds were against us with Out of the Shadows no matter what new characters they added or how “ok” the new trailers looked. As the Old Indian in Natural Born Killers said: “Look, bitch, you knew I was a snake.”
The plot of this movie has attention deficit disorder. Lip service is paid that the Turtles want to become human so they don’t have to hide anymore, there’s a mad doctor (played entertainingly by Tyler Perry) who wants to receive credit for opening a portal to another world, the Shredder wants the Turtles dead, Krang wants to take over Earth, etc., etc., etc. Every scene feels like it’s introducing a new story element and it’s so all over the place that the Turtles don’t even know the main villain of the movie exists until there’s about five minutes of screen time before they fight them. This movie is also the worst example to-date of a franchise hedging its bets and saving its characters for future installments instead of killing them off or disposing of them with some finality. I couldn’t believe that we were at the film’s climax and 4 out of the 5 villains in this movie (there are 5 villains in this movie!) were jettisoned (often by other villains -- probably because none of their motivations synched up) allowing the Turtles to basically win by forfeit because the other baddies weren’t even around to fight them. Forget resolutions. Blockbuster films are now so misbegotten that they’re basically establishing threats and not even giving us fucking climaxes for them.
Alice Through the Looking Glass, this is a producer’s movie. While it doesn’t have the usual Michael Bay production ugliness or cynicism, the aesthetic is still the same as the Bay Transformers movies or the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In the movie’s most annoying moment, Michelangelo finds himself in the middle of a Halloween parade and high-fives a guy dressed up like Bumblebee from Transformers. It’s the worst.
Did I like anything in Out of the Shadows? Yes. A couple of the performances are good, such as Tyler Perry, who is having fun and in the spirit of what this movie should have been which is an out-and-out episode of the Saturday morning cartoon show. Laura Linney is the police chief and gives a game performance because she is incapable of giving a bad one. That girl can act for days! I also liked character of Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett). The CGI for Krang is impressive and it’s pitched at such a juvenile level that it makes you wish the movie went all-out and was rated G instead of its current PG-13. Currently, the movie is toeing the line between being for little kids, older kids, teenagers or adults. The film is well-paced even though it’s an excessive 112 minutes and the animated closing credits sequence is awesome and worth sneaking into the theater for.
I’ll also give the movie props a bit for not being "dull bad" but instead "laughably bad." For example, the character of Donatello is hilarious to me. He’s saddled with a lot of expository science jargon and it’s so nonsensical that he reminded me of Damon Wayans’ Oswald Bates character in In Living Color. I also loved a sequence with Beebop and Rocksteady early in the movie, where they’re at a bar and they tell the bartender that they need untraceable burner phones. The bartender gives them the phones and B&R give the bartender a bill fold which looks like it holds thousands of dollars. Later in the movie, Casey Jones (played by Stephen Amell from Arrow) goes into the same bar and asks the bartender for information on Beebop and Rocksteady. The bartender at first tells him to piss off. Casey Jones then breaks the jukebox and smashes a Vanilla Ice CD followed by a couple of beer mugs. After that the bartender is like “Ok. Ok. I’ll tell you whatever you want.” So stupid.
Oh yeah, Megan Fox is in this movie too. Don’t ask me how she is. You know the answer already.