5 Reasons ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ is the Summer’s Best Guilty Pleasure

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The new “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie is such a ridiculous guilty pleasure it will make even non-fans of the animated TV series cheer “Cowabunga.” Many groupies were wary about this film reboot when it was first announced, but all the bad buzz turned out to be bogus. Director Jonathan Liebesman (“Battle: Los Angeles”) and producer Michael Bay have successfully updated the Turtles to 2014. The joke-cracking crime fighters still love pizza, while also listening to Gwen Stefani and watching “Lost.” And they look better than they ever have, thanks to the motion capture technology used to bring them to life.

FILM REVIEW: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”

Here are five reasons why “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is one of the best surprises of the summer.

1. The Turtles are still campy. It’s not easy to reimagine a children’s property — think “Scooby Doo,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” “The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle” or “Garfield”– and still keep the humor intact on the big screen. But the Turtles still act and talk like the wise-cracking comicbook characters that headlined a hit cartoon TV series and movie franchise. (I remember seeing the first movie in theaters at the age of eight.) One of the problems with 2007’s “TMNT,” the animated film, was that the heroes were starting to feel as bland as “Spider-Man.” Not in this movie, which has enough laughs that play to both children and adults. The film’s script keeps the zingers coming, even when the plot stalls.

2. But who cares about the plot? This new “Turtles” film, like the one released in 1990, is an origins story. The four lead characters — Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello — still live in the sewers with their teacher Splinter (a rodent voiced by Tony Shalhoub who steals every scene he’s in). The Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon release often feels uneven (Johnny Knoxville is the voice of Leonardo while the other turtles are voiced by unknowns, giving the impression that the producers ran out of time to wrangle other stars). And yet, that doesn’t stop the movie from working as an adrenaline ride. Liebesman’s frenzied direction is all over the place, in the best way for a popcorn movie. The Turtles spend most of their screentime fighting the evil Shredder (who looks like he stepped right out of a “Transformers” movie) for a green can of ooze.

3. Turtles > Caesar. The last time the live-action Turtles were on the big screen, they were puppets from the Jim Henson Co. These turtles are rendered through motion capture, and look every bit as real as Caesar from the “Planet of the Apes” films. I actually prefer the upbeat turtles, who are the kind of guests you’d want at a summer party. Caesar sulks too much.

4. Megan Fox isn’t bad. As April O’Neil, the yellow-suited TV journalist who befriends the turtles, Fox definitely delivers some of the cheesiest lines in the film. But once you get past that, she looks at home onscreen with her four green leading men. And she has good chemistry with the one male human she interacts with — Will Arnett, a colleague who comes to the rescue. Unlike most other heroines from this year’s summer action movies (like “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” or “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”), the film offers a spotlight to its female star.

5. Car chases! Taking a page from the “Fast and the Furious” franchise, the new “Turtles” movie features a series of high-speed car chases, even though our reptiles don’t know how to drive. The best scene in the film is set on a snow-covered mountain with a truck. The Turtles might not be strong enough to save the disastrous summer of 2014 at the box office, but it’s good to have them back on the big screen.

SEE ALSO: “Ninja Turtles” Retrospective: What Happened to the Actress Who Played the Original April O’Neil?

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  1. Lariste Kaplan says:

    It was certainly awful! If rampant workplace sexism, unfunny jokes, “flatulence” humor and pizza brand product placement are your idea of a “guilty pleasure”, I’d hate to see what you think of a genuinely bad movie.

    Let’s be honest – the only thing the picture had going for it was the iconic toy/comic book design characters, rendered here as giant, over-accessorized monsters with nostrils and really, no plot or decent acting anywhere. You don’t need a considered plot for comedy, but this film isn’t comedy either, it’s generic action with some ugly-as-hell gender politics and the Turtles are portrayed at one point as impoverished black kids living under a gutter. No wonder so many people avoided the sequel!!

  2. elisawilson says:

    TMNT is amazingly awesome movie and Megan Fox is looking ravishing in her character..
    your post is really informative and it having a wide spectrum of knowledge
    Great job!

  3. chris says:

    guardians of the galaxy was hugely disappointing. Tmnt was surprisingly good.

  4. John says:

    This is a frenzied, confused mess that starts with the emergence of the titular turtles (couldn’t resist) as they rise out of the gutters to save NYC from Shredder and his Foot Clan. Their human allies are Megan Fox and Will Arnett. It goes without saying that the plotting is plodding. The story gets off to a slow start, but once it gets rolling, there’s plenty of action…most of its jumbled and unimaginative. Arnett has a few funny moments, but the Turtles’ wise cracks fall flat. Kids might enjoy it (although they’ll be frustrated by the subtitles), but grownups looking to re-live their childhood fascination will find themselves yearning for their younger days (and their money back).

  5. don’t be fooled by this paid-for article – this movie is absolutely idiotic and intended for children. see guardians again. don’t waste your money on this trash.

  6. I really thought they did a great job on this movie, the Turtles were great, the fights amazing, each and every character was spot on, Splinter kick major ass, Shredder is a really big threat and a great fighter. What i didn’t like was Leo is supposed to be the best fighter of the four and he kinda gets his ass kicked by Shredder and personally it should have had Casey Jones in it and not Vern Fenwick who ever the hell that is, Will Arnett isn’t funny at all. Megan fox did do a good job of April and I love Mikey and his “DJ Mikey” the fact that they play buck buck is hilarious!” That Elevator scene was so great!

  7. The guy that plays Raph was on AC on Smallville.

  8. The Ninja says:

    Best April version so far, other ones were so annoying, pfff haters…

  9. shredder says:

    By far the worst acting I have ever seen..Megan Fox makes this movie unwatchable!! Don’t waste your time or money on this garbage

  10. DSykes says:

    “It’s not easy to reimagine a children’s property” I’ll pretend you’re only referring to the animated series and not the Black and White comics that the property stems from. The Comics were darker and grittier then the cartoons or movies ever were, and the original premise was that of a Daredevil parody.

  11. Smokey says:

    Guilty pleasure? Maybe if the turtles themselves weren’t such lumbering, oversized grotesque monstrosities there would be a guilty ‘eye-candy’ level of enjoyment out of this. But – no. Movie is terrible. So many great movies playing right now where the enjoyment isn’t ‘guilty’ (Guardians, Boyhood) Why defend this piece of shit?

  12. Evan says:

    Let me begin by saying that I’m kind of a TMNT fanatic. I have all of the movie sreleased on DVD, the entire original cartoon on iTunes, many episodes of the newer shows on my computer, and a small collection of the original comics, although I’ve read very many of them.

    That being said, I definitely enjoyed this movie. I found it fun and campy, like TMNT has always been. Yes, Megan Fox had a few moments of acting that could have been better done by a grade-schooler, but overall she did much better than I expected. Yes, they changed the origin story: A LOT. But just viewing this movie as a new take on the franchise, I enjoyed it. I think the best part of this movie was how the turtles were portrayed – their personalities were nailed, in my opinion. And I found the design and animation of the turtles and splinter to be amazing. These DESIGNS of the turtles are my absolute favorite out of any movie portrayal so far. So yes, the movie had holes, the acting wasn’t phenomenal, and there were some slow moments and un-needed, cheezy lines, but over all I think the movie was fun, campy, funny, and very true to the soul of the original TMNT.

    • Da Kid says:

      Thank you! I enjoyed this movie alot. yea the movie had it problems. The plot sucked. Actors suck. The changed origin story suck. April’s reporter sidekick is useless and aweful. If it was anyone elses movie it would be horrible but the movie is about TMNT. The movie did really well in protraying them and thats what really made the movie. If you were just looking to find a good action movie with a good story without ever being a fan of the TMNT or didnt watch it as kid, yea you would hate it. Also i dont know what the heck people are talking about they looked hideous. THEY’RE MUTANT TURTLES AND SPLINTER IS A MUTANT RAT! WERE YOU REALLY EXPECTING CUTE AND CUDDLY! This rendition of them was awesome! Thats probably all that was write with the movie. The TMNT saved the movie and made it really fun, for me so much that the other terribleness ALMOST goes unnotice. PLEASE MAKE A SEQUEL and tell a better story the TMNT deserve. Keep the same (core) characters but get rid of the director, writers and Megan Fox!

  13. Jacques Strappe says:

    For what it’s worth, the Rotten Tomatoes rating so far is 18% from all critics and 9% from top critics. Sounds like the best guilty pleasure is turtle soup

  14. FartBlaster says:

    TURLES R AMFIBIANS I NO CUZ I WNET TO SKOOL THRU 4 GRADE I RITE GUD 4 VARITY NOW

  15. Lex Walker says:

    This is the second story by a different writer on Variety who thinks turtles are amphibians. Seriously, is one of the requirements of a writing position for Variety that you must fail grade-school biology? You people are morons.

  16. oddy says:

    Worthless Bay strikes again. His movies may gross out of this world but they don’t hold up after their theatrical release. I’m not going to go see this bull****! And I already figured this review was meant for suckers that can’t think for themselves. Who cares about plot? Boy, just wait until that Ben Afleck batman drops. This clown will say, ” hey, so what if supe and batman fought for 20 minutes in a flagship Starbucks.its not blatant product placement but the need for rivalry to be done in close quarters.”That’s the type of bs I’m expecting. SMH!

  17. lev says:

    “while the other turtles are voiced by unknowns, giving the impression that the producers ran out of time to wrangle other stars) ”

    do any journalists do ANY sort of research these days?
    1. Alan Ritchson (Raph) and Noel Fisher (Mikey) are not unknowns. check out their IMDb’s.
    2. if you took any time to know the process of this film, the “unknowns” were cast and FILMED over a year ago. Knoxville was added at the last minute.

  18. Zelig says:

    You know, for a Nickelodeon joint release, this isn’t going to be exceptionally kid friendly. Micheal Bay apparently INSISTED on giving the ‘Turtles visible genitalia. And insisted that they be believably rendered and lit to fit the situation. ‘If they were splashing around in the sewer, they had to look like they were splashing around in the sewer.’ And you really think THIS is going to be a pleasure, guilty or otherwise? Who does something like that, to an aspect of the film that will add to NO ONE’S enjoyment of the movie? Did Michael Bay walk out of one of the previous movies thinking “I just couldn’t really get into this, because I couldn’t see the ‘Turtles’ “junk”? They even have weighted tubes hanging down from the front of the motion capture actors’ costumes. It looked ridiculous! I hope the movie ratings board won’t let them use those scenes without giving it an NC-17. And don’t turtles’ genitals retract up into their shells when not in use, anyway? This movie is supposed to be mostly for kids! Anyone old enough to have seen ANY of the previous incarnations of the TMNT wants nothing to do with this.

    What negative hype exactly, did you hear, that turned out to be bogus? The only bad thing I heard about this movie that turned out to be true was that the ‘Turtles were going to be aliens, and that wasn’t bogus, they just changed their minds. And the ‘Turtles do NOT look cooler than ever. They may have more fluid movement, and more expressive faces, so maybe you could say they look more realistic, or more lifelike than ever, but cool? They look hideous! I have not heard anyone with anything good to say about the way these look. The faces seem to be universally hated.

    Sheesh, man! Shill much? How much did they pay you for this review, any way?

  19. Alex says:

    Hollywood is intent on ruining my childhood. I won’t do anything to support that. I agree with most of the other comments below. “Who cares about the plot?” I F***ING DO. That’s who. You’re the reason that good films like Snow Piercer are dumbed down for us unsophisticated Americans. With that movie, although it’s in English, sourced from a French graphic novel, but made by Koreans, had to be made accessible to “audiences in Iowa.”. Apparently we’re too dumb to handle the original cut movie, which by all accounts is great. Weinstein wanted to make it more actiony, and less cerebral.

    And htat’s because of you. Instead of calling a spade, a spade, you give generous reviews to undeserved filth and help Hollywood continue making unwatchable tripe. Instead of demanding more, you accept whatever they give.

    You’re the reason, and everyone else who goes and watches this, is the reason we continue to have summers of blockbuster crap. Maybe the flagging attendance this summer is because Americans are wising up (hopefully) and seeing through the enabling that you provide.

    And btw, the phrase “guilty pleasure” is trite and lazy.

  20. mab says:

    I disagree on the turtle voices. They may be unknowns (except for Noel Fisher who has an extensive resume including currently starring on Shameless), but their voices are what you think the turtles would sound like. Made Pete didn’t sound like the Leo they wanted in this movie.

  21. Mason says:

    WORST MOVIE OF THE SUMMER! AND THIS POST HAS GOT SHILL WRITTEN ALL OVER IT! “WHO CARES ABOUT THE PLOT” OBVIOUSLY NOT THE PERSON WHO WROTE THIS FLUFF PIECE.

    hey did they pay you in pizza?

  22. Kevin says:

    If one of the best five things you can manage is that Megan Fox doesn’t completely suck, I’m not exactly going to rush to the theaters.

  23. tlsnyder42 says:

    You can’t please everyone. . . but I thought the movie was fun. The snow action scene was the best action sequence of the year so far.

  24. I personally thought the movie was very forgettable, and had some of the worst CGI I have seen in over a decade. TV even has better.

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