"Past Its Prime and Neither Here Nor There"
What You Need To Know:
TMNT does not work, because: The turtles are very simplistic looking compared to the complex computer animated human beings and monsters; the humor of the wise-cracking teenagers is missing for too much of the movie; and, the setup slows down the story. The computer animation is very good, but the underpinnings of the story display overtones of Eastern religion.
(Ro, Pa, FR, B, VV) Romantic pagan worldview with Shinto overtones where the sensei master of the four mutant ninjas has them kneel in obeisance before candles but no real references to Eastern religion other than vague talk of calming oneself, talks of immortality being gained through alignment of the stars 3,000 years ago, combined with some moral values extolling teamwork, loyalty, honor, and standing up to injustice; no foul language; lots of ninja violence and scary creatures but no blood; no sexual immorality but one kiss at the end; no nudity; no drinking; no smoking; and, nothing else objectionable.
TMNT tries to revive through terrific CG animation the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle franchise, but the movie does not work for several reasons. The turtles themselves are very simplistic looking characters in the midst of very complex computer animated human beings and monsters. Next, the humor of the wise-cracking teenagers is missing for much of the movie. Finally, much of the plot is trying to get the audience to remember who these characters were, and the setup slows down the story.
The movie opens with Leonardo trying to help a small South American village while on a sabbatical to find himself under orders from his sensei master, Splinter the giant rat. In the midst of the jungle, he reconnects with April who’s been sent to the jungle to find gigantic stone statues for the wealthy Maximilian Winters. A flashback shows that 3,000 years ago, Winters and his generals got caught in an alignment of the stars which turned his generals to stone, made him immortal and brought several monsters from a parallel universe into the world of the earth. Now, the alignment is occurring again, and Winters is trying to collect all of his stone generals to restore their lives by sending back the monsters.
Leonardo returns to New York, unites with his three brothers, fights with Michelangelo, who has become a vigilante, forges a new ninja team, fights the monsters, and then prepares for the big battle with Winters and his generals.
There are any number of storylines here which could have made this an interesting movie. Somehow, the writers never understood how to bring the storylines together into a cohesive plot with a single premise. Therefore, the movie seems slow, plodding, talky, and crammed with potential stories that go nowhere. Two-thirds of the way into the movie, it starts to take off briefly. By then, however, who cares?
The good news is that there is no foul language in this movie and the foulest moment is a single burp. The movie does have its values. It extols, teamwork, loyalty, honor, and standing up to injustice. In a way, it opposes vigilantism, although in fact the teenage mutant ninja turtles appear to be vigilantes if one thinks hard about it. The false religious aspects of the ninja culture, the alignment of the stars and other items are played down in the movie. However, since these are the underpinnings of the story, MOVIEGUIDE® would recommend caution for young children and even teenagers who do not understand the consequences of Eastern religion. The answer is not astrology or Shintoism but Jesus Christ. However, this movie does not ask for an answer; it just seems to go along to get along. The best part is the CG animation, which is very good. Otherwise, this movie is not worth watching.