The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows effectively demonstrates how a movie series can fix itself when it's broken. The 2014 franchise reboot looked great, but made the central characters virtually indistinguishable from each other. The Turtles subsequently got lost in their own movie, drowned out by constant mayhem that further blunted any individual impact they may have made. This sequel, on the other hand, feels like a much truer adaptation of the Peter Laird/Kevin Eastman characters. The entire premise is inherently silly, and the movie embraces that fact in a way the previous one didn't, leading to a much more enjoyable experience.

The story involves the villain Shredder (Brian Tee) escaping from prison and working with scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) to create mutants of his own to help battle the Turtles. Stockman mutates two other escapees, Rocksteady (WWE wrestler Stephen “Sheamus” Farrelly) and Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams), turning the former into a rhinoceros and the latter into a purple-mohawked warthog. Meanwhile, an extra-terrestrial being named Krang hatches a plan to come through a dimensional portal to Earth, which he intends to take over. The paths of these baddies cross, putting all of New York City in danger. Of course, it's up to the Turtles – Leonardo (Pete Ploszek, taking over for Johnny Knoxville), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), and Donatello (Jeremy Howard) – to stop them. Megan Fox returns as reporter April O'Neil, as does Will Arnett as her former cameraman Vernon. New to the series is Stephen Amell as Casey Jones, a cop who joins in the fight.

The fun of the Ninja Turtles, aside from their sheer ridiculousness, is that each has his own unique personality. Leonardo is the leader. Raphael is the gung-ho fighter. Donatello is the inventive genius of the group. Michelangelo is like a typical teenager, constantly looking for fun (and pizza). Those personalities are emphasized in Out of the Shadows in a way they weren't in the previous movie. There's even a subplot that gives them some internal conflict, as they have to decide whether to take Stockman's formula, which could turn them into normal human beings. Because they now have traits that set them apart, all the action and mayhem feels more rooted in something than it did before. We have a reason to follow the “heroes in a half-shell.” It helps that all the voice actors do an admirable job of bringing the Turtles to life.

The new bad guys, meanwhile, are welcome additions. They need to be as over-the-top as the Turtles, and they are. Rocksteady and Bebop are aggressive but incompetent, a fact that sets up a number of funny moments. The glee with which they fight is matched only by the comic frustration they feel upon repeatedly being outsmarted. Krang is basically a giant, megalomaniacal brain inside a metal robot shell. Hilariously voiced by Brad Garrett, he is precisely the sort of oddball villain a picture like this needs.

Directed by Dave Green (Earth to Echo), TMNT: Out of the Shadows has several really clever action sequences. One involves the Turtles' specially-equipped garbage truck attempting to prevent Shredder from escaping a police van. (The vehicle shoots manhole covers out of its front grill.) A scene in which the characters skydive from one plane to another is also terrific, especially when seen in 3D. These sections appealingly mix comedy with the action, as does the final battle with Krang.

Obviously, there's no depth or substance here whatsoever. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is disposable, mindless entertainment and nothing more. That said, it's good disposable, mindless entertainment. The Turtles have been around for a long time. They've endured, in various iterations, because they stand apart from other superheroes in both concept and design. The previous movie took them down a wrong path; this one largely fixes the mistakes that picture made.

We really see the Turtles here, and the adventure they find themselves in is suitably goofy and surprisingly entertaining.

( out of four)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence. The running time is 1 hour and 52 minutes.

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