‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ has an identity crisis, reviews say

‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’
A scene from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
(Paramount Pictures)

The “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” franchise has always been something of a tonal grab bag. Its heroes, after all, are at once adolescents, outcasts, warriors and, uh, reptiles. That’s a lot to balance, and according to the latest movie reviews, the new Michael Bay-produced reboot isn’t up to the task.

The Times’ Mark Olsen said the new “Turtles” movie “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.”

He added, “The biggest problem with the movie is it can never quite decide who it’s for or why it exists.” Some scenes are “a bit intense for younger audiences,” while others suggest “jokes for grown-ups [were] left on the cutting-room floor.” Ultimately, Olsen said, the movie is “not out-and-out terrible enough to be completely dismissed, while also not particularly memorable either.”

Entertainment Weekly’s Kyle Anderson gave the movie a C+ and said, “It’s difficult to tell what audience director Jonathan Liebesman (‘Wrath of the Titans’) and producer Michael Bay had in mind while bringing ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ back to the big screen. Is it the kids drawn to the hit animated Nickelodeon reboot or the middle-aged crowd looking to reconnect with yet another thing they loved in their youth? The filmmakers never came up with a resolution, which is why we have a reported $125-million effects parade with a crippling identity problem.”


Tomas Hachard of NPR said “Turtles” lands in an awkward spot, “resting not quite at dark and brooding but having strayed too far from foolish fun. Ultimately, there’s a generic blandness to this incarnation of the Ninja Turtles, a derivative quality that the film’s self-aware pop culture references ... only underline. The positive aspects of the movie are only those where less forgivable mistakes were avoided.”

Bilge Ebiri of New York magazine found “Turtles” to be “largely indistinguishable from any number of bloated superhero spectacles that have already graced our screens.” He added, “You might find yourself wondering who the audience for this movie is. Little kids love the Turtles, but this doesn’t exactly feel like a movie for little kids. Teenagers may appreciate the mixture of straight action mixed with wisecracks, not to mention the presence of Ms. [Megan] Fox, but would today’s teenagers even be caught dead seeing a ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ movie?”

Speaking of Fox, who plays intrepid TV reporter April O’Neill, she hasn’t garnered rave reviews either. USA Today’s Claudia Puig said the actress “would have benefited from a few acting lessons since her last co-starring role in ‘Transformers.’ She’s no more convincingly authentic than the sewer-dwelling martial-arts-loving giant turtles in all their motion-capture awkwardness. Fox rarely changes expressions. Whether terrified, surprised or in mortal peril, her face is a mask of attractive bemusement.”

It hardly helps that Fox didn’t have much to work with, said Sandie Angulo Chen of the Washington Post. She wrote, “Although the character of April was attractive in earlier ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ iterations, it’s disappointing (if predictable) that she’s overly sexualized in this installment. ... Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by such fare from producer Michael Bay, but the character -- not to mention young viewers of this Nickelodeon co-production -- deserve better.”


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