It was a couple of days ago when I realized that director David Green’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows — hereby shortened to TMNT: OOTS because I don’t have that kind of fucking time — was coming out this week, and I still had yet to see the 2014 film that preceded it. So, with time on my hands and whiskey in my glass, I watched the first one on Wednesday night. By the next morning, I had literally forgotten every single thing about it except that a) Megan Fox and Will Arnett were in it and b) it was an absolute cesspool-drowning of a film. The good news is that TMNT OOTS is better. Slightly. Sort of. It depends.
Let me explain.
Weirdly, there’s a lot going on in this film. The four turtle brothers are, predictably, going through some strife and growing pains, disagreeing with each other and squabbling over blue-masked Leonardo’s leadership (this is a thing in almost every iteration of TMNT and has become somewhat tiresome). At the same time, the evil Shredder (Brian Tee) has escaped from prison with the help of a nerdy douchebag scientist named Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry, yes, really) and Vern Fenwick (Arnett), the idiot cameraman from the first film, is riding a wave of celebrity because he took all the credit for the hijinks of the first film. The nature of those hijinks I could not recall if you put a fucking gun to my mother’s head. Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry. For a lot of things. Also, I still believe my sister is adopted and we should give her back.
I’m getting sidetracked.
Anyway. There’s also a villainous interdimensional cyborg alien warlord named Krang (aggravatingly voiced by Brad Garrett) who wants to bring his Technodrom war machine to Earth and conquer the planet, and a friendly prison guard-turned-vigilante named Casey Jones (cheerfully, if artlessly played by Stephen Amell) who befriends the turtles and fights with hockey sticks.
It’s a crowded, goofy story that never really gels properly, needlessly complicating itself with too many subplots and not enough editing. At 112 minutes, the film is easily 20 minutes too long, and what starts out as a surprisingly engaging little adventure eventually becomes a slog that creaks under its unnecessary weight. That’s a shame, too, because as flawed as it is, it’s both a vast improvement over its predecessor and at times, a surprisingly enjoyable kid’s flick. Gone is the doom and gloom of the first film. Instead, it’s a mostly breezy, silly affair, replete with a garbage truck that shoots manhole covers and a pair of dopey thugs who get turned into human/warthog and /rhino hybrids. Thanks to a snappy screenplay by Andre Nemec and Josh Applebaum (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), the film is downright fun in parts. The brothers play off each other well, and their relationships feel solid, if at times overwrought with forced drama. Megan Fox is predictably shallow and not particularly engaging, but Amell seems to enjoy doing something other than brood and scowl as he is forced to in Arrow, and there’s a kind of rueful sweetness to his performance. Yes, the plot is a mess and the pacing is stilted and the acting is mostly poor-to-average (with a few notable exceptions (Amell, Alan Ritchson’s Raphael) and one majorly bizarre exception — Hi there, Laura Linney, what they fuck are you doing here?). But there’s an unforced silliness to the film that serves it well, and made it feel far better and more enjoyable than it probably is.
It’s an odd comparison, but I couldn’t help but think of that hellishly dour tire fire Batman v Superman. I remember thinking about how, regardless of what a shitshow that movie was, what hurt the most is that I’d never want to take my kid to see it. TMNT OOTS, regardless of its flaws, is the opposite. My kid will love it some day when he’s a little older, and I’d be happy to show it to him. It’s not really made for adults, though there’s enough nostalgia for the original Laird/Eastman creations for those of us who were fans back then to make it an OK viewing experience. But for this current generation of Turtles fans, there’s enough brisk pacing, silly action, and goofy jokes to keep them more than entertained. Is it a “good” film? Nah, not really. But sometimes it’s worth recognizing that while it’s not good by critical standards, it’s good enough for younger generations. And sometimes, that’s perfectly OK.