Directed by Kevin Munroe. Voices by Chris Evans, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mako, Patrick Stewart, Laurence Fishburne, Ziyi Zhang, Mitchell Whitfield, James Arnold Taylor, Mikey Kelley, Nolan North, Kevin Smith. (2007, PG, 90 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 23, 2007
“We’re going to rescue our brother; then we’re going to save New York City,” declares one of the crime-fighting turtles. Beyond this crux, the rest of the plot in this new outing from the dormant Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise seems an afterthought. Back on the screen for the first time since the early Nineties, the turtles are now animated via CGI and no longer wearing their Jim Henson hard shells. Though they are still identifiable by their color-coordinated masks and penchant for pizza, their character distinctions are harder to perceive in this revival. Even though much of the action takes place in the sewers and nighttime rooftops the turtle clan claims as their own, the overall look of this animated feature is murky and dull. The story involves some nonsense about 13 monsters that slipped through a time/space portal some 3,000 years ago and the rich modern-day tycoon (Stewart) who is gathering them up for unknown reasons. It’s all probably too slippery for the youngest viewers to grasp and too sketchy for the nostalgia crowd (for whom this revival seems most geared). There’s also an undercurrent about turtle-family values, as the brothers are resentful at the beginning of the film of Leonardo’s (Taylor) absence in South America, where he has been sent by their rat sensei Splinter (Mako) to hone his skills. The other three have grown unfocused in the interim: Raphael (North) a rogue fighting force, Michelangelo (Kelley) a party clown named Cowabunga Carl, and Donatello (Whitfield) a stay-at-home phone tech-support clerk. Though it’s all too ineffective for this Middle-Aged Mutant Ninja Critic, the film doesn’t seem as though it will have much appeal for a new generation of youngsters or their older counterparts (despite some vocal contributions by king of the fanboys Kevin Smith). However, TMNT probably has just enough juice to keep the franchise alive and kicking until its next incarnation.