'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' 
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have returned, possibly signaling the moment when ’90s nostalgia hits the mainstream. There’s a problem with nostalgia, though. Fond memories tend to make things seem better than they were. Unless you’re an unapologetic Ninja Turtles nut, all this new reboot offers is definitive proof that some franchises should never be revived.
This Michael Bay-ified edition of ‘Ninja Turtles’ plays out pretty much exactly as you’d expect. Megan Fox plays April O’Neil, a news reporter (who looks like she might sideline as a porn star) obsessed with breaking out of her strict regimen of frothy news stories by covering the dastardly deeds of evil ninjas ravaging New York (even though no one else seems to notice or care). Along with her wise-cracking cameraman Will Arnett, April discovers four folks fighting back against the evil Foot Clan and their blade-packing leader Shredder. Shockingly, these four warriors are massive mutant turtles.
So far, it’s pretty much the movie that came out in 1990. The only real difference this time is that the turtles are brought to life by state of the art motion-capture technology that is somehow less believable than the rubber puppet suits the Jim Henson Workshop whipped up over twenty years ago. Plus, the film has a little ‘Amazing Spider-Man’-style needless augmentation to the back story, which now suggests that April’s scientist parents were involved with creating the Heroes in a Half Shell. Why? Who knows and who cares? It’s just a needless expansion in an attempt to make a goofy story seems dark and meaningful (which doesn’t work, by the way).
Michael Bay is only an executive producer on the movie, so it’s unfair to attribute all the blame to his blackened heart. However, his touchstones are all over it, from weirdly sexualized humor in a children’s movie to a climax that involves a bunch of CGI stuff smashing into other CGI stuff so that it can explode. At the same time, this probably would have been a better movie had Michael Bay directed. Say what you will about his artistic bankruptcy, but the guy at least has style and flair. The actual director Jonathan Liebesman (‘Battle: Los Angeles’), on the other hand, seems to have no sense of style, pacing or visual orientation whatsoever. His vision of blockbuster action cinema is one of murky lighting, shaky cameras, and such needlessly rapid-fire editing that you can barely ever see what’s happening. Toss in cheap post-converted 3D and you’ve got an action movie in which you can barely see the action. Not exactly ideal.
Acting-wise, Megan Fox does her thing, which isn’t bad yet is far from great. Will Arnett desperately tries to make the horrible jokes in the script work but rarely succeeds. William Fichtner is probably the best part of the movie as the villain, but given that he neither plays Shedder nor Krang, that’s not what the kids will want to see. Tony Shalhoub is moderately amusing as Splinter, while the actors voicing the turtles are universally indistinct. (Whoever thought it was a good idea to hire Johnny Knoxville to voice Leonardo needs to be medicated, because it’s incomprehensible miscasting.) Everyone else is bland and forgettable, which I suppose is appropriate given that this is a big stupid movie about talking turtles who fight crime and eat pizza. Complaints could be made about the predictable plotting and shameless Pizza Hut product placement, but what’s the point? If you didn’t see that coming then you probably haven’t heard of the Ninja Turtles.
The new ‘Ninja Turtles’ movie is a big dumb mess and a textbook example of lazy blockbuster filmmaking. Of course, that doesn’t mean the target audience won’t enjoy it. I was 6 at the height of Turtle mania, as was absolutely obsessed with the cartoon, toys, videogames and everything else. I still have a certain level of nostalgia for the Ninja Turtles because they played such a large role in my childhood, but if I try to watch any of the old movies or TV shows now, I feel embarrassed. After the weird underground books that parodied gritty comic book excess, the entire franchise transitioned to one manufactured by toy companies and pizza chains.
The Ninja Turtles have never been art and rarely even clever pop culture. That didn’t matter to me when I was a kid because they were friggin’ ninja turtles so I loved them without question. There’s a good chance that kids today might feel the same way, and an even better chance that anyone who can’t see past nostalgia when viewing old ‘Ninja Turtles’ nonsense through adult eyes will dig the movie as well. That doesn’t make it right, but it will at least explain things if this stupid movie turns out to be a hit.