Lionsgate // 1989 // 289 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Jennifer Malkowski (Retired) // February 1st, 2006
They're heroes in the half-shell...and they're green!
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ranks up there with Aqua Teen Hunger Force and The Teletubbies in the hallowed halls of stories that were undoubtedly helped into this world by hallucinogenic drugs. Despite this fact -- or perhaps because of it, in some way -- I was one of the many kids of the '80s drawn in by these heroes in a half-shell. In fact, I'm pretty sure I still have a tub of chipped, discolored Ninja Turtles action figures with various limbs missing in my basement. That being said, I popped this disc into my DVD player motivated by pure nostalgia. As is usually the case with childhood nostalgia, I was vaguely disappointed.
Of course, the gang is all here. Roll call! We've got The Turtles themselves: Leonardo (leads), Donatello (does machines), Raphael (cool but rude), and Michelangelo (word on the street is that he's a party dude). Then there's their giant rat master, Splinter, who does little justice to martial arts with battle cries like, "Hai-Sacagawea!!!" Ye olde metal-head, Shredder, and his mutant goons, Bebop and Rocksteady (did I mention this was the 80s?), are their regular foes. Krang, a disgusting pink brain with the voice of a grandma who's had one too many whiskey shots (did I mention hallucinogenic drugs?), is the leader of the bad guys. Rounding out the cast is the news team of New York's Channel Six, led by intrepid female reporter April O'Neal, who sounds like she's voiced by one of the girls from Jem and the Holograms. Since this is an '80s kids show, there's probably about a 50/50 chance on that one.
Here are some brief descriptions of the particular adventures included on this disc:
* "Beneath These Streets"
Shredder and Krang steal something to try to fix The Technodrome. The Turtles blow off crimefighting for pizza and a movie.
* "Turtles on Trial"
The Turtles do some PR work for themselves by appearing on an obnoxious, provocative talk show. Meanwhile, Shredder and Krang steal something to fix The Technodrome.
* "Attack of the 50 Foot Irma"
A strange substance from a meteorite makes Irma Godzilla-sized. Meanwhile, Shredder and Krang steal something to help them take over the city.
* "The Maltese Hamster"
Armed with high-tech weapons from Shredder, the mob rampages through the city searching for "The Maltese Hamster." Guess what genre this one parodies?
* "Sky Turtles"
Shredder messes with gravity in the city causing everyone to alternately float off or stick to the ground.
* "The Old Switcheroo"
Shredder and Splinter switch bodies. 'Nuff said.
* "Burne's Blues"
In the midst of a heat-wave, April's boss tries to dig deep and report on the true nature of The Turtles. Meanwhile, Shredder and Krang steal something to help them take over the city.
* "The Fifth Turtle"
A pint-sized, squeaky-voiced fan of The Turtles tries to convince them to let him join the team. He's a ten-year-old Mary Sue. Meanwhile, Shredder and Krang steal something to try to fix The Technodrome.
* "Enter the Rat King"
A save-April episode which introduces a different villain, the Pied-Piper-meets-crazy-bum Rat King.
* "Turtles at the Earth's Core"
The Turtles end up fighting dinosaurs somewhere in the earth's core. Don't ask me how.
* "April's Fool"
April covers a fancy ball for visiting royalty and is mistaken for the princess, and then taken captive for a hefty ransom.
* "Attack of the Big MACC"
A peace-loving but lethal robot wanders into NYC from the future. The Turtles befriend him while Shredder and Krang try to control him.
Poor writing causes a lot of the pain and boredom of revisiting this cartoon at length. I'm not saying this is supposed to be Shakespeare, or even Batman: The Animated Series, but it's hard to excuse lines like this one from Krang: "The only thing better than maximum power is super-maximum power!" Sigh. It's playful, maybe, but not enough to surpass the basic stupidity level. The show is pretty uninventive and formulaic all around. Most of these episodes consist of Shredder and Krang scheming to raise their stranded base, The Technodrome, back to the surface. They'll hear about some weapon or gadget on display in some museum, they'll steal it, The Turtles will get it back, someone's pants will fall down (even though hardly anyone wears pants on this show), and the good guys will celebrate with a granola and licorice pizza. Once in a while the writers will give some false hope for slight variation, like when Krang gets fed up and says he will defeat The Turtles with brain instead of brawn -- but then he just steals a big tank-robot to blow them up. Perhaps I'm unclear on the distinction between "brain" and "brawn." My favorite moment of so-bad-it's-almost-good writing is when Shredder and Splinter switch bodies. Splinter-in-Shredder is having his brain waves scanned by Krang to see if they match the real Shredder's. So the jig is up, eh? But wait! Splinter-as-Shredder screws up his eyes, furrows his brow, and thinks to himself, "Must control my brainwaves...make them match Shredder's." And what'd ya know, it works! I'll have to remember that for next time I get my brain waves scanned. It's all in the concentration.
Actually, a big part of the problem with this volume is that this run of episodes seems to be all the ones featuring Shredder and Krang. Although they are the most memorable villains, where are the other supporting players like the ninja rabbit, Usagi; the mallard pilot, Ace Duck; that human guy, Casey Jones; or the giant alligator, Leatherhead? I can dig up action figures to prove that tons of other characters existed, but the only one that shows up in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Volume 3is The Rat King.
The disc itself is not going to win any awards, either. This is a
single-disc volume with no extras, booklet insert, or subtitles. It does have
chapter breaks. The sound is fine, but the picture looks pretty bad because of
color inconsistencies, scratches, and the generally mediocre quality of the
original animation. It's not that the animation is worse than the other cartoons
of the time, but -- like so many aspects of Teenage Mutant Ninja
-- it just doesn't hold up well to the high quality cartoons we're used to now.
Review content copyright © 2006 Jennifer Malkowski; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 289 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Not Rated