Like eating an entire pepperoni pizza to yourself, Jonathan Liebesman‘s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an exercise in corpulent gluttony. The jocular quips drip just as much cheese as the pizzas they scarf. An unnaturally meretricious Megan Fox oozes virginal sex like fat from a pepperoni. The CG eye-candy glistens like glitter on a stripper. But like that greasy, calorie bomb of a meatlover’s pizza in the wreckage of a hangover, it works. The solitary fart joke even lands.
Like Norville Barnes, people have insisted this effort is, you know, for the kids, but I’m not entirely convinced. Firstly, TMNT rides in on the parent-frightening PG-13 wave, even though the violence is inconsequential and entirely bloodless. And involves turtles. Add to that the fact that a good spell of the humor riffs around a few hardly risible rapey jokes and the fact that one of the turtles courts an unrequited sexual obsession with Fox’s April O’Neill. From this we can pretty much conclude this isn’t solely intended for the kids. Unless they’re really into rape jokes now.
Continuing on that note…WAIT WHAT?! Are you telling me that not one but two of the characters (Will Arnett, shame on you) actively promulgate the fact that they want to lay a bone down on our pea-brained female protagonist? Even though she’s more 6th grade science fair student here than voluptuous femme fatale? Yes. And yes. Hmmm, I think I might be talking myself out of semi-liking this movie.
But I can admit up front that this was never a movie crafted with me in mind, making the fact that I found myself under the spell of a fair many turtle-chortles all the more miraculous. Not with the rapey stuff though. That’s still pretty weird.
In lieu of turtles forcing themselves on supple female jokes, what does actually work is the brothers themselves. Hell, why not throw that into the catalogue of adjectives to precede the word turtle: Teenage Mutant Ninja Brother Turtles! Because when you really break it down, the defining feature of this film adaption is the familial aspect of it. That and bulletproof shells.
I’m getting ahead of myself and thinking it’s probably time to actually break down the plot, as if that’s really a requirement for a movie called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Fox is April O’Neil, a low rent reporter with stars in her eyes. She wants the big stories. It’s Pulitzer or bust. Concurrently, she’s straight up bummed when she gets assigned news stories that have her bouncing on trampolines for the latest fitness craze. As if that’s a coincidence.
When she gets wind of a local terrorist group known as the “Foot Clan”, April takes matters into her own hands and decides to investigate Watergate style. Minutes later, she’s discovered the existence of the shell-bound ninjas. Soon after that, she realizes they’re the product of her own dead father’s experiment. Minds are blown.
As April cohorts with the turts, the judiciously evil Eric Sacks (William Fichtner) schemes with the blatantly bad, full metal jacketed Shredder (Tohoru Masamune). Their plan, world domination. Their strategy, does it really matter?
Step one: poison city. Step two: everyone’s a leper. Step three: sell cure for ONE MILLION DOLLARS! (Pinky to lip). It may be Doctor Evil-level silliness but, let’s be very clear here, Shredder is confirmed BA. The guy has a smattering of swords that he shoots out like they’re Spiderman goo and then sucks back up magnetically. If I may quote Jesse Pinkman, “Magnets bitch!!” It makes for some pretty geeky nerdgasms. Especially when everything is all fuzzy and scrambled.
Liebesman’s scenery is draped with clumpy snow, which not only got me excited for next year’s skiing season but set the table for some exquisite “high” stakes action sequences. As the set pieces comes to life, the cameras zip around like on a Nimbus 2000, keeping things hectic, fluid and fun. Though the Turtles keep their weapons mostly holstered, Liebesman whips his out like a kid leaving summer camp. His touch is perfectly puerile, his tone nefariously juvenile.
As TMNT rips to a rather forecasted conclusion, it’s quite clear that Liebesman’s goal has been accomplished. His film is a puckering cherry bomb. But rather than blow up in his face, it erupts in the toilet. Us feckless few snicker. His film is crapulously inconsequential. It’s the epitome of dumb summer movie. And it pulls in at under an hour and 45 minutes. For that alone, it’s way better than the latest Transformers flick.