Movie Review

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The leader. The brains. The attitude. And Mikey.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie Poster

US Release Date: 08-08-2014

Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman


  • Megan Fox
  • April O'Neil
  • Will Arnett
  • Vernon Fenwick
  • William Fichtner
  • Eric Sacks
  • Alan Ritchson
  • Raphael
  • Noel Fisher
  • Michelangelo
  • Pete Ploszek
  • Leonardo
  • Johnny Knoxville
  • Leonardo (voice)
  • Jeremy Howard
  • Donatello
  • Danny Woodburn
  • Splinter
  • Tony Shalhoub
  • Splinter (voice)
  • Tohoru Masamune
  • Shredder
  • Whoopi Goldberg
  • Bernadette Thompson
  • Minae Noji
  • Karai
Average Stars:
Reviewed on: August 12th, 2014
Megan Fox and some CGI covered actors in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Megan Fox and some CGI covered actors in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

In an interview with Matt Lauer, Megan Fox explained how she had to fight for the role of April O’Neil in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She said she was a fan of the show growing up and even had a thing for Michelangelo. Her persistence paid off as she has more screen time than any other actor on screen, in one of the better films of the summer.

Fox plays a Lois Lane type wanna-be reporter April O'Neil, who one night accidentally witnesses the mutant turtles in action as they do battle with a gang of drug thieves. Of course no one, including her editor boss played by Whoopie Goldberg in what amounts to little more than a cameo, believes her story. She investigates the turtles on her own and soon discovers that she shares a history with them.

We are teased with only glimpses of the turtles at first but they soon take over the story with April never too far behind.  With the help of her lovelorn cameraman Vern Fenwick, April joins the turtles to do battle with the evil Shredder in order to save New York.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles should not work as it features teenage mutant ninja turtles and the bad guy’s plot comes down to a very, very rich man wanting to be even wealthier. The story however, is written in a way that I fell easily into the fantasy of it all and I actually found myself enjoying it all very much. There is some legitimate amount of mild tension that is complimented by some pleasant humor. The action kept my interest, with my favorite bit being when the turtles found themselves doing battle while sliding down a snow covered mountain. It was interesting seeing the turtles outside of their natural sewer/city environment.

The scene shown in the commercial sums up the ninja turtles charm. When April first comes face to face with them, she reacts with fear. Michelangelo attempts to calm her by removing his mask, as if that is what scared her. These are human sized turtles yet they see the world as if they are normal naïve teenagers. “But we can have adult conversations.” says Michelangelo, the funny one. Each has a personality. Leonardo is the leader, Donatello is the smart one and Rafael is the rebellious one. My sons already knew the characters from the cartoon television show, while I had to catch up.

Megan Fox looks as good here as she ever has. April has a better backstory than was originally given her in the TMNT cartoon. It makes sense within the plot but does not add much to the role. Fox does not have any scenes that require much emoting but she also never embarrasses herself. She does all that is required and her performance is quite competent.  She looks like she had a blast making this movie and she even got to hang out with her childhood crush.

Reviewed on: August 16th, 2014
Will Arnett and Megan Fox in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Will Arnett and Megan Fox in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been around for 30 years now. From a comic book in 1984 they've spawned a minor entertainment empire that includes several television series and four previous theatrical films as well as numerous video games and sundry toys. This is the first new movie in the franchise since 2007. In all that time I've never been a fan of these talking teenage turtles. Now however, although I didn't care much for this movie, I do get their appeal.

It's not that this movie is so awful, it's just that it's fairly dull and forgettable. It takes too long before we meet Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello. First we have to sit through some completely unoriginal and slightly annoying scenes between Fox and Arnett. The entire plot is one we've seen literally hundreds of times before, the only selling point is the turtles. Once they enter the picture the movie improves considerably. But it has a weird mix of the dark and serious with a very juvenile sense of humor that never quite finds its footing.

It's at its funniest when poking fun at itself. At one point Arnett says, “So they're aliens?” and Fox replies, “No, that's stupid. They're turtles.” As if that somehow makes more sense. A movie featuring four six-foot-tall talking adolescent turtle brothers named after Italian Renaissance artists, who were raised by a talking rat, who trained them to become ninjas, after all five of these animals were mutated by scientists in a lab, needs to keep its tongue firmly in its cheek. This movie takes itself too seriously.

I wasn't all that impressed with the action scenes and the 3-D was nothing special. The only scene it noticeably enhanced was the one Eric mentioned where the turtles are chased down that snowy mountainside (that somehow happens to be just a quick sewer ride away from Times Square). It's easily the most enjoyable action sequence in the movie.

There is a certain charm to these four brothers, each with their own distinct personality and signature identifying mask color. I would have preferred a story about their childhood where we could have watched each of their personalities develop. This would have created a stronger emotional reaction in the audience when Splinter gets injured. Instead we get one quick flashback scene of the brothers as turtle children. These characters deserve a better script. The one they're stuck with here is as stale as yesterday's pizza.

Reviewed on: August 17th, 2014
Megan Fox in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Megan Fox in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

As Patrick wrote, this isn't an awful movie. If I were 12 years old or younger, I'm sure I would have enjoyed it. Or perhaps if I had fond memories of watching the cartoon as a child, I might enjoy some sort of nostalgic thrill from revisiting it, but I do not. Outside of those two groups however, this movie has little to offer.

Director Jonathan Liebesman does his best to tease out the appearance of the Turtles. Unfortunately, he's about 30 years and one movie trailer too late to keep us guessing as to the identity of these mysterious vigilantes. It takes something like 15 to 20 minutes before we really meet the turtles in the film, but about 10 seconds in the trailer, thus rendering the suspense moot. Plus, let's face it, the clue is in the title. We all know what it is we're coming to see. The story also seems to forget that we're living in the age of near blanket CCTV camera coverage, particularly in a city like New York, where a normal sized turtle would be lucky to pass without being filmed, let alone 4 giant ninja ones.

Like Patrick, I found the funniest moments to be when the script was self-aware of the silliness of the premise. After she spends the night researching the turtles' origin and then blurts it all out in a sleep deprived frenzy, her bosses reaction to the outrageous story is the appropriate one. Will Arnett's acceptance of the story, with the obvious intention of getting in good with Fox's April, is likewise believable. However, too often the ridiculousness of the situation is played perfectly straight. I mean, you've got Megan Fox speaking to a giant rat voiced by Tony Shaloub and it's played with a completely serous tone.

I agree with both my brothers that the mountainside scene is the film's best moment. It's the only time that the 3-D feels worth the extra cost. Watching the turtles slide, jump and bounce through the snow around speeding vehicles is the most fun this movie provides. Despite being mostly CGI, the turtles manage to feel as though they have weight. One question that kept bothering me though was, why was it winter at the villain's headquarters, but apparently sunny and warm in the city?

As I said, clearly I'm not the target audience for this movie, but I was willing to be won over. I've certainly seen and enjoyed movies with sillier premises. Too often though, this one feels like a long commercial for the plethora of Turtles merchandise now available in stores everywhere.

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