By Chaz Lipp
Never saw the 2014 reboot that put the Turtles back on the pop culture map? Me neither, but never fear – it’s entirely possibly to go into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows completely cold. Within the first few minutes of the new film, the Turtles’ battle with fearsome foe Shredder (Brian Tee, filling in for Tohoru Masamune from the ’14 film) is recapped succinctly. Despite their victory, the mutant brothers remained relegated to the sewers as newsman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett, returning here) walked away with the credit.
Honestly I don’t make it a habit of seeing sequels to movies when I never saw the original. But I have fond memories of collecting the original Eastman and Laird comic books (not to mention the much-later teaming of the Turtles with Bob Burden’s Flaming Carrot) and a soft spot for the original live-action films of the early ’90s. So nostalgia, combined with the fact that there didn’t happen to be any convenient alternatives that night, primarily led to seeing Out of the Shadows. Normally I’d consider such personal rambling to be irrelevant. The point is, I went into the film with zero expectations.
Looking around the theater at the many kids in attendance, I tried to imagine how I’d have felt about Shadows as a ten-year-old youngster. The action is fast-paced, the one-liners are frequent (and sometimes pretty funny), and the tone is generally light. Through some sci-fi elements (involving teleportation), Shredder is boosted from prison. He enlists the help of two goons, Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (WWE wrestler Sheamus), to track down the quartet of pizza-loving ninja brothers. But first, using an extra-terrestrial mutagen obtained from the villainous alien Krang (Brad Garrett), he mutates Bebop into a warthog and Rocksteady into a rhino. In short, my ten-year-old self would’ve loved every ridiculous minute. And it seemed like the kids at my screening were lapping it up.
The “depth,” such as it is, comes from the age-old conundrum: if you could drink a magic potion that would “correct” all of your flaws, would you? Or would doing so betray everything that makes you uniquely you? We’ve seen this dealt with more effectively in most of the X-Men movies. Here it’s aimed at a decidedly younger crowd. Krang’s mutagen, the Turtles discover, could be used to transform them into human form. The issue of whether or not to trade in their half-shells for “normalcy” is a running theme that may give some kids something to relate to.
Inoffensive, unambitious, but efficiently directed and acted, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is far from the worst way a family could spend a couple hours at the movies this summer.
Images: Paramount Pictures