There was a time when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were everywhere. Stars of not only the movies—1990’s self titled flick remains one of the highest grossing independent films of all time—but also comic books, television and video games, they even had action figures and breakfast cereals as part of their reptilian empire. They were 20th Century pop culture icons, which ain’t too bad for four hard-shelled crime fighters named after Renaissance artists.
But, like all pop culture fads, eventually Turtle mania played itself out, and the action figures, the TMNT PJs and coloring books became passé. This weekend Warner Brothers is hoping to give Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello a 21st century digital makeover.
It’s been fourteen years since the green fighting machines last graced the big screen and there have been some changes. The trademarked ninja swords, skateboarding tricks, unquenchable hunger for pizza and catchphrases like “Cowabunga!” are all in place, what’s gone is Canadian actor Elias Koteas who starred in all three original movies and the cheesy turtle costumes.
In the new computer animated version the heroes in the half shell must heal the rifts that threaten their brotherhood, fight 3000 year-old immortals and save New York City from becoming overrun with monsters and demons from another age, (kind of like it was before Rudy Giuliani stepped in to clean up Times Square.)
The mach 4 Turtles have some cool action scenes—a single-take skateboard thrill ride through a sewer pipe is eye-popping—but it’s too bad that writer, director Kevin Munroe didn’t put as much effort into the script as he did some of the flashy visuals. The dialogue is painful, lacking the flair and appeal of other CG movies like The Incredibles and it may be Turtles sacrilege to bring this up, but the skateboarder slang has got to go. It might have been hip in 1984, now the lingo sounds dated and corny.
TMNT should appeal to younger kids—not too young, though, some of the action scenes are rather intense—and young adults who grew up eating out of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle lunch boxes.