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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows



Stealth. Cunning. Silence. These are some of the hallmark traits one can associate with ninjas. Traits entirely absent from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, the cacophonous, ludicrous follow up to the successful 2014 reboot. The prior Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles took pains to establish this world of mutated, talking, pizza eating, humanoid teenage terrapins (proudly) named by the fetching intrepid reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox) after Italian Renaissance painters: stern leader Leonardo (Pete Plozek), techie-nerd Donatello (Jeremy Howard), hard charging Raphael (Alan Ritchson), and party animal (literally) Michaelangelo (Noel Fisher). Louder and dumber than its predecessor, like a five year old banging dishpans together, Out of the Shadows squarely aims to recreate the weekday cartoon from the 1990s, with wall-to-wall CGI mutant creatures colliding into each other making tons and tons of noise, signifying nothing.

A year after defeating the evil ninja master Shredder (Brian Tee) and his ninja Foot Clan, the Ninja Turtles continue their thankless mission of protecting New York City from evil. But all is not harmonious within the four brothers. The Turtles are divided by their desire, like Ariel the Little Mermaid, to be part of that world above and be accepted. Their chance comes via a purple ooze from another dimension, a gift to Shredder from Commander Krang (Brad Garrett), a talking sludge of Pepto Bismol puke housed in a robot body and the most ridiculous and unsightly CGI creature in a movie bursting at the seams with them. This ooze could turn the Turtles into humans, an opportunity the Turtles reject after quick, arbitrary soul searching. Shredder and his mad scientist Tyler Perry instead use the ooze to transform a couple of bumbling henchmen Rocksteady (the WWE's Sheamus) and Bebop (Garry Anthony Williams) into a giant mutant rhinoceros and warthog respectively. The Turtles and April O'Neil recruit their own backup: not just April's old cameraman turned preening Hero of the City Will Arnett (who publicly took credit for Shredder's defeat so the Turtles wouldn't be publicly exposed), but also Casey Jones (Stephen Amell), a corrections officer in a goalie mask who fights ninjas with a hockey stick. 

Out of the Shadows unabashedly plays as a live action cartoon toy commercial. New vehicles like the Turtles' Battle van and the Foot Clan's motorcycles are trotted out and all but boxed and placed on Toys R Us shelves. The great threat to New York City is Krang's Technodrome, a massive Death Star-like base that arrives through a ripple in the sky in pieces, which the Ninja Turtles fight to prevent it from fully assembling. Every human, including Laura Linney as a police captain, plays the material as broad as possible, which is to say every performance is terrible. Everyone in Out of the Shadows who's not a mutated animal of some sort is thanklessly wasted by the overwhelming spectacle of CGI dominating the screen every moment. Wasted most of all is Megan Fox, who anchored the first movie with a heroic lead performance, but in this sequel, she's an arbitrary sidekick to the Turtles with no arc of her own, left to just react and reassure all the other humans meeting the Turtles for the first time that they're all right. Out of the Shadows is 112 minutes of being bludgeoned in the face by a bo staff, sai, katana sword, and nunchucks, and then a whole large pepperoni pizza is shoved down your pants.