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The Independent Critic

Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Danny Woodburn, Jeremy Howard, Noel Fisher, Whoopi Goldberg, and William Fichtner
Jonathan Liebesman
Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird (Characters), Andre Nemec, Evan Daugherty, and Josh Appelbaum
Rated PG-13
101 Mins.
Paramount Pictures

 Is this "Teenaged Muted Ninja Turtles?"  
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Have you ever found yourself sitting around with a friend discussing your wild passion for a film only to look over at them and realize that they just don't get it?

I have the strangest feeling that such is the case with the team behind this insipid re-imagining of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a film that takes a familiar foundation and turns it upside down and all around in such a way that it becomes readily apparent that producer Michael Bay, director Jonathan Liebesman, and the team of scribes behind the film have no freakin' clue what they're doing and, instead, have simply chosen to create a blue collar version of a blue collar Bay film with mostly poorly manifested Nolanesque touches that go nowhere.

I would love, really love, to imagine that Michael Bay produced this disastrous concoction solely as a twisted joke upon Megan Fox, who infamously dissed the director a little while back and has now been relegated to this weird Twilight Zone of Hollywood where bad movies still manage to make profits and so we get more bad movies.

Oh, and trust me that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will make money and lots of it. In fact, I have absolutely no doubt that there will be those who proclaim it their favorite film of the year and to which I will quietly respond under my breath "I'm glad you're not one of my readers."

Here's the thing. If you can actually let go of everything you're expecting from a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, and I'm talking in a dramatic way along the lines of Noah, then there is actually a chance that you'll enjoy this fundamentally moronic, badly lit, horridly choreographed, and badly focused film.

For the record, if you do enjoy it you should be ashamed of yourself.

The biggest problem, though that may be hard to prove given that there are so many big problems here, is that Liebesman and his crew have unfathomably chosen to focus far too much of the film on Megan Fox's April O'Neil, a fluff reporter trying to prove her worth and somehow figures that shadowing a group of ninja turtles is the way to do it. It's a wildly bad miscalculation from which the film has no hope of recovering.

This decision has two major components to it. First of all, while Fox is perfectly likable while bouncing on a trampoline she's in no way built up the acting range to carry what amounts to the lead even in a bad film. Fox's version of showing determination is to do this sort of tight-lipped pursing thing that she's done in every film I've ever seen her do. Unfortunately, that look is also how she conveys joy, sorrow, laughter, and death. Fox could have potentially proven to be a good companion in this film, but by focusing everything on O'Neil and trying to add a layer of grit and determination, especially considering Whoopi Goldberg is here as her boss, it all sets up both Fox and the film to fail.

So, anyway, by now you've probably caught on that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is darker and grittier this time around, though it also weirdly tosses in some of those familiar kiddie components. It's a weird balance that doesn't work and it feels like Liebesman just plain couldn't decide what tone the film should have. The turtles, rather than radiating any of that 80's charm and nostalgia, look rather creepy and even sound rather creepy at times as played by Splinter (Danny Woodburn), Noel Fischer (Michelangelo), Jeremy Howard (Donatello), Leonardo (Johnny Knoxville), and Alan Ritchson (Raphael). Tony Shalhoub's vocal work as Shredder is surprisingly ineffective given the darkly humorous work that Shalhoub has often given us in his television work.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Will Arnett's appearance as April's cameraman, an appearance marred by the fact that he and Fox don't play off each other particularly well and it's an almost painful waste of a talented comic actor.

If you thought you'd make it through the review without my mentioning the baddies in the film, The Foot Clan, well you obviously haven't been reading my writing for too long. These scenes, unfortunately, are too darkened to be fully successful and the film's lensing incorporates far too many close-ups for one to get a true sense of the mostly confusing and poorly developed fight sequences.

While there's little doubt that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will have opening weekend success, here's hoping that bad word of mouth and a just plain bad film get what they deserve and go back to the shell that they came from before too long.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic