Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie review

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

(M) **

Director: Jonathan Liebesman.

Cast: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Pete Ploszek, Jeremy Howard, and the voice of Johnny Knoxville.

Megan Fox's character seems to have wandered in from a completely different movie.

Megan Fox's character seems to have wandered in from a completely different movie.

IT'S hard to figure out what's the most annoying thing about this TMNT reboot.

Is it the ear-shattering sound design or the endlessly moving camera?

Is it what the animators have done to the turtles' faces or what plastic surgeons have done to Megan Fox's face over the years?

Or is it the fact that producer Michael Bay has added yet another treasured childhood cartoon memory to his back catalogue of crap films he's affiliated with?

The whole thing starts promisingly enough - during a nicely stylised introduction mutated rat sensei Splinter (voiced by Tony Shalhoub) narrates a brief introduction to the ninja turtles and their war against the evil Foot Clan.

From there it goes downhill pretty quickly as Fox takes centre stage as journalist April O'Neil. Not only is O'Neil in the running for the title of "worst movie journalist ever", but Fox can probably expect a Razzie nomination for worst actress when the anti-Oscars comes around.

While trying to crack a big story about the Foot Clan's nefarious plans, she accidentally uncovers the existence of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and soon finds herself embroiled in their efforts to save New York City from the evil Shredder and his foot soldiers.

It's not a total waste of time because in one sense this is the TMNT movie some fans have been waiting for.

Gone are the cumbersome rubber suits of the original trilogy, which relied on clever editing to make Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo move like ninjas. In their place are strange, hyper-real-looking computer-generated turtles that take some getting used to, but they move and fight better than ever.

Their characterisation is spot on too and the film is at its best when the heroes in a half-shell are interacting - a brief humourous respite featuring the turtles killing time in an elevator is a great example of this.

The other highlight is the CGI, particularly during an insane downhill running battle featuring a runaway truck, a mini-avalanche, and electrified harpoons.

But with such impressive effects it's a shame Liebesman feels compelled to keep the camera constantly moving so we can't get a good look at things, most notably during a distracting fight in the sewers featuring Splinter and his turtles versus Shredder and his foot soldiers.

Obviously the idea of mutated adolescent amphibians with a knack for martial arts requires a fairly large suspension of disbelief, but this can't excuse the huge amount of frustrating plot contrivances and "what the" moments crammed in here.

O'Neil's connection with the turtles is a good example of this, as is the bad guys' ability to move so quickly from capturing the MacGuffin to executing their diabolical plan (this makes no sense out of context but trust me on this). Then there are the endless efforts to cram in every touchstone from the previous comics and cartoons, including a groan-worthy attempt to get the title of the film into the dialogue.

Managing the inherent goofiness of the concept behind these pizza-loving turtles and the current trend towards the "oh-so-serious" approach to all reboots and comic-book movies is a balancing act Liebesman and the multiple writers can't quite nail, particularly when Fox's O'Neil seems to have wandered in from a completely different movie.

The result is an annoying mess. A few memorable moments can't save it from the frustrating editing, a ridiculous script, and way too much Megan Fox and her bizarrely enhanced features.

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