Case Number 11862

TMNT

Warner Bros. // 2007 // 87 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Mike MacNeil (Retired) // August 13th, 2007

The Charge

"I must have hit my head really hard. I'm seeing giant turtles!" -- Max Winters (Patrick Stewart, X-Men)

I must admit that I didn't pay much attention when news of a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie started circulating. I've lost touch with the guys in green over the years and, to my jaded ears, the whole affair sounded like the gatekeepers of the franchise were just jumping on the computer animation bandwagon. All that cynicism melted away within minutes of popping TMNT into my DVD player. All of a sudden I was six years old again, and that's to the film's credit, because this is a young boys' movie through and through; you need to be in that frame of mind to really enjoy it. There's a subtle but important difference between movies that can bring their audience into the frame of mind of a certain age group and movies that are specifically targeted and marketed to a particular age group. For the most part, TMNT stays in that first camp.

The best thing the movie has going for it is its fidelity to the characters. In some of the previous incarnations of the Turtles, there's been a tendency to portray Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo as very flat, personality-wise, with maybe one or two distinguishing characteristics for each. But they've had a long, illustrious history in the comic books, where they first appeared, and they've developed strong, distinctive personalities in that medium over the years. TMNT taps into that, and that's a huge deal, because that's what elevates the movie from a 90-minute slugfest to an action movie with compelling characters and (gasp!) emotional content. Splinter comes off as a genuine father figure, the Turtles interact, bicker, and fight with one another like real brothers, and April and Casey are pursuing a committed long-term relationship. Even the bad guys are more complex than you might expect.

Of course, all this character development takes place in between the action sequences. And, man, there are a lot of action sequences. Those darn Turtles are just constantly on the move. The opening scene, which sets up the aforementioned cosmic monsters and Aztec generals turning to stone, is done on an epic scale. I was pleased to see that the climactic final battle manages to top it.

Sound and picture are great; characters and backgrounds have a lot of texture and a high level of detail. Director Kevin Munroe pushes his animators to the limit, and gets some impressive visuals for the effort. He lets the camera swoop through the action in long, continuous shots, and it pays off. Klaus Badelt's thumping, Matrix-esque score sounds great, and the voice work, which is a mixture of voiceover pros and live-action talent, is top-notch.

The director's commentary is occasionally a little dry but consistently informative. In addition to directing, Kevin Munroe also came up with the movie's plot, and he spends just as much time talking about the evolution of the story as he does about the technical challenges of directing a computer-animated film. He comes off as a real student of TMNT history, and in fact collaborated with Turtles co-creator Peter Laird on the script.

There's a decent amount of extra features that add up to a pretty comprehensive behind-the-scenes look, including alternate opening endings and deleted scenes in various stages of animation, most of which include commentary by Munroe.

Opening Statement

Imagine for a moment that you're the parent of a young boy. The year is 1990, and you've brought Junior to the movie theater to see the new movie that's apparently based on his favorite cartoon. You don't get up that early on Saturdays, so you've never seen it, but it's got something to do with turtles. You figure it must be this generation's Muppets. Who knows, maybe it's a "Tortoise and the Hare"-type story. Now imagine your surprise, nay, imagine your bewilderment when the movie kicks in and you get to know the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: they live in the sewers, they talk like California surfers, they kick the crap out of ninjas, and they scarf down pizza. Their mentor is a giant Japanese rat. The villain is a purple junkyard Darth Vader. And Junior loves it. You walk out of the theater in a daze, trying to process what you just saw. Soon you start to notice the TMNT merchandise all over the place. Movie sequels are on the way, the cartoon is still going strong, and every kid on the block is just as wild about the Turtles as Junior is. What the heck is going on?

That's my best guess as to what parents must have been thinking at the height of Turtle-mania. I can't say for sure, because I was, in fact, one of those kids. We impressionable youngsters had never seen anything like the Turtles. They kicked butt, they partied, and they made us laugh. They were fun. And you know what? They still are.

Facts of the Case

Everyone's favorite heroes in a half-shell enter the digital age with TMNT, their first CGI adventure. Turns out a lot has changed since their last feature-length outing: the Turtles are on crime-fighting hiatus, April O'Neil (Sarah Michelle Gellar, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Casey Jones (Chris Evans, Fantastic Four) are an item, and a rich tycoon by the name of Max Winters is up to something sinister involving ancient Aztec warriors made of stone, a baker's dozen of big scary monsters, and the remains of the Foot Clan.

The Charge

"I must have hit my head really hard. I'm seeing giant turtles!" -- Max Winters (Patrick Stewart, X-Men)

I must admit that I didn't pay much attention when news of a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie started circulating. I've lost touch with the guys in green over the years and, to my jaded ears, the whole affair sounded like the gatekeepers of the franchise were just jumping on the computer animation bandwagon. All that cynicism melted away within minutes of popping TMNT into my DVD player. All of a sudden I was six years old again, and that's to the film's credit, because this is a young boys' movie through and through; you need to be in that frame of mind to really enjoy it. There's a subtle but important difference between movies that can bring their audience into the frame of mind of a certain age group and movies that are specifically targeted and marketed to a particular age group. For the most part, TMNT stays in that first camp.

The best thing the movie has going for it is its fidelity to the characters. In some of the previous incarnations of the Turtles, there's been a tendency to portray Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo as very flat, personality-wise, with maybe one or two distinguishing characteristics for each. But they've had a long, illustrious history in the comic books, where they first appeared, and they've developed strong, distinctive personalities in that medium over the years. TMNT taps into that, and that's a huge deal, because that's what elevates the movie from a 90-minute slugfest to an action movie with compelling characters and (gasp!) emotional content. Splinter comes off as a genuine father figure, the Turtles interact, bicker, and fight with one another like real brothers, and April and Casey are pursuing a committed long-term relationship. Even the bad guys are more complex than you might expect.

Of course, all this character development takes place in between the action sequences. And, man, there are a lot of action sequences. Those darn Turtles are just constantly on the move. The opening scene, which sets up the aforementioned cosmic monsters and Aztec generals turning to stone, is done on an epic scale. I was pleased to see that the climactic final battle manages to top it.

Sound and picture are great; characters and backgrounds have a lot of texture and a high level of detail. Director Kevin Munroe pushes his animators to the limit, and gets some impressive visuals for the effort. He lets the camera swoop through the action in long, continuous shots, and it pays off. Klaus Badelt's thumping, Matrix-esque score sounds great, and the voice work, which is a mixture of voiceover pros and live-action talent, is top-notch.

The director's commentary is occasionally a little dry but consistently informative. In addition to directing, Kevin Munroe also came up with the movie's plot, and he spends just as much time talking about the evolution of the story as he does about the technical challenges of directing a computer-animated film. He comes off as a real student of TMNT history, and in fact collaborated with Turtles co-creator Peter Laird on the script.

There's a decent amount of extra features that add up to a pretty comprehensive behind-the-scenes look, including alternate opening endings and deleted scenes in various stages of animation, most of which include commentary by Munroe.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

For all my talk about TMNT's surprising level of sophistication, there are a few exceptions. The most egregious one comes about halfway through the movie, when Gellar has a monologue that completely rehashes the first scene of the movie. That scene, along with a few instances in which characters feel the need to announce exactly how they're feeling, despite the fact that it's already been made quite clear to us, bring the proceedings to a screeching halt. I understand that the idea is to explain things to the wee ones, but it just comes off as the filmmakers talking down to their audience, and it really isn't necessary. Kids aren't stupid.

Closing Statement

TMNT is a solid entry in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. Come for the mutants and swordplay -- stay for the drama!

The Verdict

Not guilty, dude.

Review content copyright © 2007 Mike MacNeil; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 95
Audio: 100
Extras: 100
Acting: 90
Story: 90
Judgment: 95

Perp Profile
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)

Subtitles:
* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary by Writer/Director Kevin Munroe
* Alternate Opening
* Alternate Ending Temp/Scratch Test
* Mikey's Birthday Party Full Sequence
* Raphael's Rough House Fight Test
* Monsters Come Alive
* Donny's Digital Data Files
* Roof Top Workout

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0453556/combined

* Official Site
http://tmnt.warnerbros.com/