Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
When the Shredder (Brian Tee) is broken out of protective custody, it is up to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, journalist April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and their new ally Casey Jones (Stephen Amell) to thwart his evil plans. But what they do not know is that Shredder is working for an even greater threat: Krang (Brad Garrett), an inter-dimensional being hell-bent on world domination.
Where the 2014 reboot played out as semi-serious and dark, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows feels like a live action Saturday morning cartoon. This is bar none the closest any of the live-action Films have ever come to replicating the look, feel, humour and silliness of the original 1987 TV series. Coupled with some well-placed references and elements from the newer animated shows, this Sequel is the Turtles Film that fans, no matter the age, have always been clamouring for.
The CGI used to bring the Turtles to life is just as spectacular and excruciatingly well detailed as you remember. The core team from the reboot return here – standout Noel Fisher as Michelangelo, Jeremy Howard as Donatello, Alan Ritchson as Raphael and Pete Ploszek as Leonardo (using his own voice this time!) – and all of them give excellent performances. While they become increasingly annoying, I have to give props to Stephen Farrelly/Sheamus’ Rocksteady and Gary Anthony Williams’ Bebop. These two classic characters have never been featured in the live-action Films, but both actors make them fit into this Film rather well. Their commitment to these goofy characters is evident from the start, giving performances that rival the work of the four leads. If anything I wish there was a little more Krang, but fans will be pleased with how authentically he is recreated here.
But the joy of having a genuine Turtles Movie comes at a price. The story is paper thin and feels like an extended episode of the cartoon. When it touches on some deeper character moments like the “humanity” of the Turtles, it skips to the next scene and forgets what happened all too quickly. And while returning Writers Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec wisely switch the main focus of the Film from April back to the Turtles, they pack in too many secondary characters with not enough for them to do. Both the Shredder and his Foot Clan leader Karai (Brittany Ishibashi) are completely different from their depictions in the first Film, but they have very little impact on the story. Splinter (played by Peter D. Badalementi and voiced by Tony Shalhoub) is basically reduced to a two-scene cameo.
Amell fares a little better as Casey Jones, but his appearance in the Film feels like extended fan service. Everything he does could be easily cut or given to the scene-stealing Will Arnett who returns as obnoxious cameraman Vernon Fenwick. Arnett gets an interesting subplot, but it feels like the two of them are constantly competing to stay relevant to the plot. Fox benefits from not being the Film’s focal point and is afforded a bit more time to work on the creativity April is known for – but not much. If there is anyone who is on the same level as the CGI actors, it’s Tyler Perry (yes, as in Madea) who has a total blast hamming it up as mad scientist Baxter Stockman. His enthusiasm and energy is unmatched, as is his clear desire to become the Turtles insect adversary in TMNT 3.
If you are a big fan of the Turtles cartoons, you will find a lot to enjoy about Out of the Shadows. The CGI has been amped-up considerably, but still looks just as terrific as the performances behind it. Some of the bigger problems with the first Film have been resolved, but there are a number of new ones left in their wake. But in the end, can you really expect anything but silly fun from a Movie about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
Paramount Pictures Canada release TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS on Friday, June 3, 2016.
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