March 29, 2007


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Four computer-generated, pizza-eating, ancient-monster-fighting occasionally sulky, lifesized turtles make me feel really old in TMNT, a movie based on ye olde Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles characters and set after the turtles have defeated their ye olde enemy Shredder.

Here’s what makes me feel 6,000 years old about this movie — the turtles have gone around the wheel. They were in, they were out and now they’re in again and little kids know about them. The stuff from my childhood is no longer kitschy, it’s heading into cartoon classics-land, with the Superman and Spider-man from generations earlier.

Oy, here’s hoping there isn’t a Jem movie in the works.

Thoughts about my aging probably helped give this movie depth; despite being of the 3D CGI family, TMNT is quite flat in both appearance and tone. The turtles, much like the Ghostbusters at the beginning of their sequel, are killing time with odd jobs including mascot work at children’s birthday parties. Lead turtle Leonardo (James Arnold Taylor) has been sent by the turtle’s rat mentor Splinter (Mako) to South America to learn to be a better leader. After doing that for a while, he’s decided to hang out and scare assorted jungle bad guys until April (Sarah Michelle Gellar) runs into him while she’s there picking up ancient statues. She indirectly convinces him to come back to New York City, where he finds that Donatello (Mitchell Whitfield) and Michelangelo (Mikey Kelley) are slacking off and Raphael (Nolan North) has become a vigilante. (Actually, it takes him most of the movie to find out about Raphael, to the point that I was actually kind of surprised that Leonardo was surprised about who was doing all the Batmaning in the area.)

All this discord in the turtle family is no good, especially since Max Winters (Patrick Stewart), the man April was buying statues for, is actually an immortal warrior from some pre-Incan civilization bent on reanimating his turned-to-stone comrades and summoning monsters to the city. So now there are demons to fight inside and out.

On second thought, musings about my own middle-aged-ness don’t make this movie any deeper. The film is probably entertaining enough to the cartoon-addicted kid who won’t remember one scene to the next anyway but for anyone old enough to pay attention to story and plot development it will feel like an absolute eternity to sit through scenes that just repeat stuff we already know. And worse, these pre-Bart-Simpson bad-attitude teens are infrequently funny.

Kids today, they don’t know what they’re missing. C-

Rated PG for animated action violence, some scary cartoon images and mild language. Written and directed by Kevin Munroe from the comic book and characters by Kevin Eastman and Peter Larid, TMNT is an hour and 26 minutes long and is in wide release by Warner Bros.