Shout! Factory // 1997 // 240 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 25th, 2012
Everyone's favorite turtles are back in live action.
I completely missed this one. When it showed up on my doorstep for review, I thought it was a new treatment of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles property. Nope. It had a brief run in the mid-'90s and then vanished into the ether.
It's not hard to see why the show didn't catch on. Frankly, Ninja Turtles is weird. Or at least weirder than a show about turtles who are teenagers that are ninjas and have been mutated typically would be.
The first thing that immediately jumps out at us is the live-action format. Taking a cue from the fun-to-ridiculous-to-boring feature films, Ninja Turtles dispenses with the usual animation and suits up the stunt guys in rubber get-ups and turns them loose. At first glance it's sort of cool, and certainly brings back memories of the days of Corey Feldman-voiced shenanigans. But the cheapness of the production eventually catches up with the show. The turtle costumes look odd, particularly the masks, which appear to be molded out of whatever Gumby is made of. The opponents, be they Foot Clan or others looks less like legitimate threats to turtle well-being and more like your neighbor's weird kid and his friends LARPing in the backyard. When a moderately-budgeted feature film series is unable to figure out how to make Splinter not look like a Muppet with rickets, it's no surprise this shoestring kids show can't stick the landing either.
Things get even weirder with the arrival of two new additions to the Turtle universe: 1) Venus de Milo, a female turtle, transports stateside due to some kind of ninja magic; and 2) Shredder's replacement, The Dragon Lord, a reptilian overlord seeking to do evil reptilian overlordy things. Venus's arrival signals an attempt to mix up the mythology and perhaps draw young girls into the show, but my question is this: Does a giant talking female turtle serve as a better role model than an enterprising television reporter who owns nothing other than bright yellow jumpsuits? I think we all know the answer to that question, friends.
As a character Venus is okay, but adds little to the Turtles' dynamic. Her gimmick is that she's an old-school Shinobi, acting as the stranger-in-a-strange-land, so Michelangelo gets to introduce her to the joys of pizza. She also has some odd psychic power that literally turns Shredder into a basketcase and ends the threat of The Foot Clan. Meh.
As for the Dragon Lord? He's no Shredder. Or Rocksteady. Or Bebop for that matter.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles completists might want to give this a spin, just to say they did. But there's not much going on here that would mandate anything more than a peek for curiosity's sake.
Nothing much to see with these DVDs either: 13 episodes on two discs, standard definition 1.33:1 full frame, Dolby 2.0 stereo, no extras.
Let's face it: The Ninja Turtles just aren't the same, if they're not being menaced by a giant weightlifter with an anthropomorphic spleen in his midsection.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 240 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Not Rated