Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Laura Linney, Stephen Amell, Tyler Perry, Brian Tee, and the voices of Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Tony Shalhoub
Rated PG-13 for Sci-Fi Action Violence
The best I can say about "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows" is that it's better than the first one. Considering that the 2014 reboot was a mind-numbing mess that made my Bottom Ten list that year, that is not a compliment. So while that movie threatened to drive the viewer insane with its aggressive visuals and utter inanity, this one is simply dull.
The notorious Shredder (Tee), the leader of the villainous Foot Clan, has been caught. On his way to prison, he has been rescued by his gang of nefarious ninjas. While the Turtles attempt to put a stop to it, Shredder mysteriously teleports away from the scene. This is witnessed by corrections officer Casey Jones (Amell), but Chief Vincent (Linney) doesn't believe him. His investigation leads him to April O'Neil (Fox) and the Turtles, but also to a nerdy scientist named Baxter Stockman (Perry), who April suspects of having ties to the Foot Clan. But that's all going to be small potatoes when a new threat arises.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are stuck in the 1980's. I think we can all agree on this. Their value system, charm and appeal are from the time of flat tops, Madonna and boom boxes. Without acknowledging this in the presentation, there is no way they could hold a film together. Unfortunately that's what happens. There's no sense of parody or retro here. Director Dave Green, a self-confessed fan of the Turtles, plays things straight. It makes them seem goofy and backward rather than interesting or appealing.
In a movie like this, acting is not generally a primary concern of anyone involved. Megan Fox is certainly sexy, but her range is limited. Will Arnett is just irritating; I kept waiting for the Foot Clan to stick a sword in his gut to shut him up and keep him from mugging the camera any further. Stephen Amell looks cute and hunky, but is a little on the wooden side. Tyler Perry, who's producing prowess and targeted appeal are far greater than his acting or filmmaking capabilities, is awful as the nerdy scientist; he is never convincing. The only one in the cast who escapes with a shred of dignity is Laura Linney, and that's because it's impossible for her to act badly. As for the Turtles, they're fine, but their voices are so mechanized and completed with green screen and stuntwork that anyone could have played them.
Unlike the first film, there are some good scenes here. The first is an escape from a crippled airplane. Taking the bad dialogue and worse jokes and the fact that "Eraser" did it first (and better) 20 years ago, the scene is well executed and even a little exciting. And the climax is visually impressive.
Don't get me wrong. I don't recommend this film. Even if you're a die-hard Turtles fan. But compared to the next movie I saw in the multiplex, it's a pleasure cruise.