Thanks to my oldest grandchild and younger brother (my wonderful family is complicated), even though I was a grown-up married man at the time, I’m a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan who got sucked into all the excitement of the original phenomenon back in the late eighties and early nineties. In fact, I seem to remember the kids outgrowing the 1990 film (the first and best) before I did. Actually, I still haven’t.
A quarter century may have passed but Elias Koteas will always be Casey Jones to me.
Knowing the mythology and feeling all kinds of nostalgia, I was ready for the 2007 reboot “TMNT,” which wasn’t very good, and ready for this latest reboot, which is even worse.
With $125 million to play with, director Jonathan Liebsman went a much darker and less charming route with his iconic characters. Because of the dark tone and jokes like, “She’s hot, my shell’s getting tighter,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” scored a PG-13 with the ludicrous decision to chase the Marvel zeitgeist at the cost of its own innocence — which of course is what made the franchise so endurable to begin with.
The story centers around April O’Neil, her ambitions to be a “real journalist,” and a misguided and unnecessary storyline that directly connects her to the creation of the turtles. Megan Fox is not only miscast as April, the movie doesn’t even take advantage of her good looks. Fox looks corpse-like pale, is buried under too much hair, and dresses like a teenage boy.
Never for a moment do you buy Fox as a Lois Lane. The scenes where April puts the pieces together made me embarrassed for the film. But not as embarrassed as I was for Whoopi Goldberg as April’s boss. I’ll update this review after I decide which was worse: Whoopi’s dialogue or wig.
Replacing the irreplaceable Casey Jones character is Will Arnett in a thankless role as April’s cameraman. One moment he’s the wiser, older, crankier Perry White character; the next he’s hitting on her. And yeah, it’s creepy.
William Fichtner plays Eric Sacks, the owner of a security firm that for reasons no one even cares to make believable, has been put in charge of keeping New York City safe. Because Sacks is played by William Fichtner, there’s no surprise when Sacks is revealed as a loyalist to Shredder, the arch-villain and leader of the Foot Clan — a gang of masked thugs stealing the ingredients needed to poison all of New York. Apparently, this will result in Shredder being crowned king of New York and an already super-wealthy Sacks becoming even wealthier.
If that isn’t insipid enough, wait till you see how the blood of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles just happen to fit into this diabolical scheme at the very last minute.
And it is with our shelled vigilantes that the movie really falters. This time, rather than costumes, Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael are all CGI’d characters voiced by actors who all sound exactly alike. The plot is so frenzied and eager to get to the butt-numbing action that they’re never given anytime to spread out, relax, exhale and allow us to get to know them.
If I hadn’t thrown it away, I could use my VHS copy of the 1990 film to prove to you that young fans loved the inter-action between the four turtle brothers much more than the action. Those are the moments I had to rewind a hundred times. Those are the parts of the tape that wore out, not the action stuff.
But action is what this second reboot is all about and it looks as fake and creaky as a video game.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC