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  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows From sewer to stardom
Year: 2016
Director: Dave Green
Stars: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Laura Linney, Stephen Amell, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Tyler Perry, Brian Tee, Stephen Farrelly, Gary Anthony Williams, Peter Donald Badalamenti II, Tony Shalhoub, Brad Garrett, Jane Wu
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Having defeated the evil Foot Clan the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) and Raphael (Alan Ritchson) continue to protect New York anonymously, but secretly long to be embraced by the city. When gal pal April O'Neil (Megan Fox) discovers rogue scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) has allied himself with their arch-nemesis Shredder (Brian Tee), the turtles spring into action. Before they can foil the jail-break, Baxter's experimental teleportation device mistakenly lands Shredder in an alien dimension. There he forms a new alliance with Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett), a pink tentacled alien blob with plans to invade Earth. To assist Shredder in realizing his invasion plans, Krang bestows him with a mutagenic ooze that transforms two escaped convicts into Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly), a mutated warthog and rhinoceros with enough muscle and attitude to take on the turtles.

While the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) reboot from producer Michael Bay wound up offending turtle purists (yet still turned a profit), the inevitable follow-up went out of its way to win fans back. Oddly not fans of the somewhat darker, more serious comic book co-created by Kevin Eastman (who cameos here as a pizza delivery man) and Peter Laird, but rather the more garish and kid-friendly Saturday Morning cartoon from the late Eighties. Hence Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows brings back fan-favourites Bebop and Rocksteady, hockey-masked vigilante Casey Jones, mad scientist Baxter Stockman (restored to the comic book's original African-American incarnation, though no such luck with April O'Neil) and comically grotesque alien menace Krang along with the turtles' gadget-laden pizza van and silly if infernally catchy theme song. It was not enough to win over the critics nor confirmed Bay-haters, but went some way towards appeasing turtle-heads still nostalgic about the original show.

Dave Green, director of the poorly-received children's science fiction adventure Earth to Echo (2014), films in the action retro-Eighties neon colours. He labours to maintain a sense of childish, as opposed to childlike, fun but also kow-tows to familiar Bay-isms including misplaced profanity, dick jokes, oddball pop culture references (do kids even remember the Dating Game?) and bizarre character traits. For example: Bebop and Rocksteady's weirdly co-dependent, mutually affirming homoerotic relationship ranks among the more curious additions to an ostensible children's film. We also learn Raphael idolizes Vin Diesel. Maybe due to the physical resemblance? A fun if all-too-brief scene where Michelangelo crashes a Halloween parade stages the Michael Bay equivalent of the in-joke encounter between E.T. - The Extraterrestrial and Yoda as he bumps into a kid dressed as Bumblebee from Transformers (2007).

Scattershot plotting struggles to rope-in the human characters though things kick up several notches in terms of energy and watchability whenever Will Arnett is on-screen reprising his role as self-aggrandizing cameraman Vern. Megan Fox actually ups her game when paired with Arnett, displaying some of the light comedy skills honed on her Judd Apatow assignments and sporadic appearances on YouTube. Nonetheless, aware this is a film aimed primarily at teenage boys, Green does not miss a chance to showcase her usual eye-candy qualities. In a similar vein Out of the Shadows shoehorns pointless cameos from several NBA stars along with Brazillian supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio fast-becoming oddly ubiquitous for her bit-parts in major movies (albeit, not entirely unwelcome). Stephen Amell, über charismatic star of DC comics TV show Arrow, breaks away from his familiar brooding persona to reveal a similar flair for comedy as Casey Jones, improving on Elias Koteas in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) if not quite eclipsing Chris Evans' vocal stylings in the computer-animated TMNT (2007). Amell is an amiable presence but much like the titular foursome Casey is written as an overgrown adolescent. Hence his bad boy antics strain credibility for a supposed police officer. Aside from one-man film industry Tyler Perry acquitting himself quite well as Baxter, the most jarring addition to the cast has to be Laura Linney as Police Chief Vincent. The film is worth watching just to see an Oscar-winning class act like her interact with four computer-generated turtles with commendable naturalness and ease.

As with the previous TMNT outing the camera-work remains dynamic, particularly throughout the action sequences staged by stunt coordinator Spiros Razatos, though the film shoots its wad too early with its most exciting set-piece: a high speed car chase-cum-jailbreak. Attempts to imbue the storyline with an emotional backbone are undone by an overall cheesy tone and the characters' obnoxious personalities. Initially heartening attempts to interweave a message about acceptance coming from within regrettably regress into a retread of the ongoing dick-measuring contest between Leonardo and Raphael. Writer-producers Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec cobble together a plot lifting choice bits from The Dark Knight (2008), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), Ocean's Eleven (2001), Ghostbusters (1984) and various Marvel movies including the umpteenth Avengers rip-off climax with an alien armada flying out from a giant hole in the sky. That said the final round of face-offs are kind of fun.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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