Mutant turtles living in New York City sewers and fighting crime isn't exactly what you'd call a "realistic" premise, and really, the inherent goofiness has always been part of the charm for a property that's spawned three animated series, multiple movies, and countless toy lines. But for some reason, the new "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie, produced by Michael Bay and directed by Jonathan Liebesman, still spends an inordinately large amount of runtime pointing out that, yes, they know how ridiculous this all must sound.
The basic plot of the new reboot, as laid out in a comic book-style prologue, sees New York in the grips of a major crime wave thanks to the Foot Clan, now a paramilitary force led by Shredder (Tohoru Masamune). And the only ones who can stop them are our teenage heroes, who've been preparing for years to assume their rightful place as the city's protectors (via a training montage that looks more like a big-screen adaptation of the Fruit Ninja game).
But there are a lot more things in Liebesman's film that are harder to buy than the existence of six-foot-tall beat-boxing reptiles. Here's an unofficial ranking of the most logic-defying aspects of the new "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie, from most believable to least.
Michael Bay didn't direct it.
I know it's hard to believe, considering this generic, CGI-heavy reboot plays like it was ripped straight out of Bay's "Transformers" playbook, but it was actually helmed by the "Wrath of the Titans" and "Battle Los Angeles" director. And you can tell. While Liebesman's every bit as obsessed with slow-mo as Bay, the action scenes are actually coherent instead of just a mish-mash of CGI and explosions. The other key giveaway? That there's only one (presumably contractually obligated) leering shot of Megan Fox's lower half.
Someone thought "She's so hot, I can feel my shell tightening!" was a witty, age-appropriate joke.
This movie is supposed to be aimed at kids, right? I'm pretty sure Michelangelo's crush on Fox's April O'Neil is supposed to be "cute," but instead it's just exceedingly creepy right from the get-go. Actually, same goes for the nightmare-inducing CGI Splinter.
Pizza Hut can make a 99-cheese pizza.
No self-respecting "Ninja Turtles" movie would be complete without a pizza delivery (how else are you going to wedge in more product placement?), but when Splinter shows up to bribe Michelangelo with "a 99-cheese pizza" he ordered, I'm with the Turtles on this one: that's just physically impossible. Although, if true, then the mad scientists in the Pizza Hut test kitchen have managed to come up with an even more monstrous creation than six-foot mutant turtles.
Raphael isn't just cool, but rude, he's downright bloodthirsty.
Leonardo still leads, Donatello still does machines, and Michelangelo still makes up the comic relief, which gives the Turtles more personality than Bay's Autobots, no matter what you think of the new CGI designs. But it's still a little off-putting to hear the loose cannon Raphael laughing about how "sick" it was when a Foot henchman's jaw hit the concrete, and how he'll be drinking out of a straw for months.
Whoopi Goldberg makes a cameo.
As April's incredulous boss, for undetermined reasons.
Every character in the movie is connected.
Instead of embracing the fact that there's nothing particularly logical about a team of talking turtles led by a kimino-wearing rat, Liebesman's film attempts to force every piece to fit together perfectly, giving April a tenuous childhood connection to the Turtles, billionaire Eric Sacks (William Fichtner), and Shredder. All that overwritten backstory is parceled out in long expository monologues, and rather than streamline the rebooted origin story, it somehow manages to make it all even more loopy and confusing.
Anyone wouldn't immediately guess that William Fichtner is a bad guy.
Fichtner's a talented character actor, no matter how much he's phoning in this stereotypical '80s-era corporate villain role, but we're just saying, maybe he doesn't look like the type of guy you should be spilling all your secrets to, April.
The following line of dialogue: "We'll drain every last drop of their blood to get it, even if it kills them."
For a movie with three credited writers, you'd think at least one of them would've pointed out the fact that this command, while certainly villainous, makes absolutely zero sense.
The scene of the Turtles beatboxing in an elevator isn't as dumb as it sounds.
In fact, it's kind of charming, the rare moment when Liebesman's film actually pauses to have a little fun that comes organically from its characters instead of just from a lazy pop culture reference or pre-pubescent humor. The movie could've used a whole lot more of that.
They wait 90 minutes to bust out "Cowabunga!"
Considering how awkwardly the phrase "heroes in a half-shell" was shoehorned into the dialogue early on (weep for poor Will Arnett), this counts as a remarkable amount of restraint.
There's only one fart joke.
Correction: now that's restraint.
It's not actually that bad.
Despite fan fears that the Michael Bay-led "Ninja Turtles" reboot would be a serious affront to their childhood, the movie isn't as bad as you might be expecting (or even hoping). Sure, the human characters are out-acted by the CGI ones, and most of the jokes are pretty sophomoric, but Arnett at least provides a modicum of legitimate comic relief, and the action ought to satisfy summer audiences.
That doesn't mean it's great, of course. "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" is essentially just "Transformers" all over again, a beloved franchise rebooted into just another aggressively generic, relatively joyless action movie. Last week's "Guardians of the Galaxy" took a goofy premise and cult property and turned it into a fun, mainstream-friendly popcorn movie -- is it really so ridiculous to think the same could've been done for the Ninja Turtles?
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" is now playing in theatres.