Judge David Johnson is a hero in a half-shell.
Our reviews of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition (published August 14th, 2009), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition (Blu-Ray) (published August 17th, 2009), TMNT (published August 13th, 2007), and TMNT (Blu-ray) (published August 30th, 2007) are also available.
The Teenage Mutant Turtles, absent for so long from the big screen, make their return in newly realized, Corey Feldman-free CGI forms.
Facts of the Case
The story kicks off with the revelation that Shredder has been defeated and the turtles are scattered. Leonardo is halfway across the world in training, leaving the fearsome foursome doing their own separate things. Raphael, in particular, has grown restless and occupies himself by running around as a vigilante during the night.
When April (Sarah Michelle Gellar, The Grudge) and her boy-toy Casey (Chris Evans, Cellular) stumble upon a plot by a handful of magical stone statues to take over the world, the TMNT crew is called back together for the mission to end all missions. A wealthy industrialist named Max Winters (Patrick Stewart) turns out to be an immortal warrior who brought a curse onto Earth when opened a portal 3,000 years ago. To undo the damage, he needs to corral 13 trans-dimensional monsters and seal the portal, much to the chagrin of the aforementioned stone warriors. As if anthropomorphic turtles wasn't trippy enough…
Following an unforgivable 14 year hiatus from the cinemas, everyone's favorite reptilian quartet is back, jump-kicking mofos and eating pizza like it was the early '90s all over again. And by "everyone" I of course mean "young boys with their fingers in their noses." Not that grown-ups won't enjoy TMNT—maybe they will. But as I was watching the film, I kept thinking "Geez, if I was 9 years-old I think I'd love this movie!"
That's what TMNT is, really, a kid-friendly family film and if you're expecting something clever from the Pixar mold of CGI movies, you'll likely be disappointed. Young kids, parking their butts in front of mom and dad's spiffy new HDTV will almost certainly go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs (literally) over the writer-director Kevin Munroe's eye-popping computer-generated spectacle. But this Judge, about 15 years removed from his fond days of sling-shotting Donatello across the backyard, didn't find too much to embrace here.
Start with the story, an out-of-left field, nonsensical extravaganza of complicated mythology, interdimensional portals, philosophical discussions of mortality and a big, furry monster with one eye. While not as idiotic as the "secret of the ooze" story from the first live-action sequel, the sheer zaniness of this installment's narrative makes one long for the simpler plots of Shredder and Krang f-ing up another world conquering scheme. Or maybe not. Krang was a dick.
On the plus side, the bizarre story makes for some kick-ass visuals and here's where the film really shines. Though Munroe didn't show much spunk in the writing department (there's a desperate need for wit and amusing dialogue throughout), the guy knows how to direct. The action sequences are a joy to watch and the over-the-top showdown toward the end, while a bit anti-climactic, is still a wild, kinetic ride. In fact, any time there's action happening on screen, from Michelangelo's whirly-twirly skateboard ride through the sewer pipes to a most-excellent confrontation between Raphael and Leonardo, Munroe has a handle on it, and his deft touch maximizes the fun.
TMNT is a movie built for the high-def generation. The 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen (1080p, VC-1) is a fantastic sight. The CGI really crackles in this transfer: colors are blazing and details remain sharp no matter how dark the scenes (and there are some dark scenes). The showcase is the finale, where all hell breaks lose and the high-def picture rocks it like a champ. You'll be able to pick out individual Foot Clan members with ease. The TotalHD audio mix is as excellent as you expect, really pumping out the aggressive soundtrack and throwing 360 degrees worth of discrete aural cues at you.
The extras aren't nearly as overwhelming. Kevin Munroe delivers a fine commentary track. He's a guy with obvious love for the IP and it shows. After that, the quality in the bonus material goes downhill. You'll get a handful of deleted scenes, including an extended moment with Michelangelo and Splinter and an alternate opening and ending that don't offer much more than a nifty exchange between Casey and April. After that, the extras are all about test footage, storyboard comparisons and pre-visualizations. These segments are short and uninspiring, save for "Donny's Digital Files," a cool look into the software used to create the turtles. A making-of documentary features interviews with the voice talent, but it feels more like a generic promotional piece than anything substantial.
Falling short in terms of compelling story, TMNT still delivers an action-packed frenzy of great-looking computer animation. It's totally righteous on HD-DVD.
Case dismissed. Go forth, defend humanity, and eat pizza.
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