The new adaptation of the comic book "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," directed by Jonathan Liebesman, often feels like some sort of corporate seminar in brand management. There is something half-hearted about the entire film, as if those behind it were involved not because they wanted to make it, not because they should make it, but just because they could.
Based on the comic first released in 1984 that had been made into a feature film in 1990, the new film is written by Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec and Evan Daugherty and produced by
The story opens with
If it seems as if this review is taking its time getting to the large talking turtles who are teenagers and trained as ninjas, that's because the film does too. Turns out that Fox's character has a personal connection to the creatures, and so they join forces to fight a wealthy industrialist (
Rather than hokey men in costumes, the four turtles — Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo — are created using performance capture techniques not unlike what has been done with the animals in the recent "Planet of the Apes" movies. (
The film's high point is an action sequence set on a snowy mountain with the turtles improvising their shells as toboggans while fighting bad guys and swerving under and around an out-of-control big-rig tractor-trailer. There is a snap and specificity missing elsewhere, likely courtesy of Dan Bradley, who worked on the dazzling stunts in the "Bourne" pictures and is credited here as "snow unit director."
The biggest problem with the movie is it can never quite decide who it's for or why it exists. A moment where the Turtles' rat-ninja mentor (voiced by Tony Shalhoub) is nearly killed by a villain is a bit intense for younger audiences. Comedians Abby Elliott and Taran Killam appear briefly, implying jokes for grown-ups left on the cutting-room floor, and
Not out-and-out terrible enough to be completely dismissed, while also not particularly memorable either, perhaps the truest summation of the film is to say simply that the new "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" is a movie that exists.
'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'
MPAA rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.
Running time: 1 hour and 41 minutes.