Critical Mass: Can the 'Ninja Turtles' shred the critics?

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Image Credit: Industrial Light & Magic/Paramount

You can be sure of two things when you combine producer Michael Bay with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. One, your eyeballs will get a workout. And two, the most snarky critics will be tempted to write their reviews before the film even rolls.

In Wrath of the Titans‘ director Jonathan Liebesman’s new live-action, CG-heavy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which stars Megan Fox as Turtle-pal April O’Neil, the four Renaissance-named turtles are still living up their name. Johnny Knoxville voices Leonardo, who leads the Turtles against their traditional antagonist Shredder—as well as a mysterious puppet-master who springs chaos on New York. Will Arnett plays April’s loyal cameraman, who harbors a crush on his much-younger co-worker at the TV-news station, and William Fichtner plays a brilliant scientist who knows a bit about where the turtles possibly came from.

Fox’s updated, curvier April and the film’s PG-13 rating reflect one common complaint—that the filmmakers forgot their target audience. “Is it the kids drawn to the hit animated Nickelodeon reboot or the middle-aged crowd looking to reconnect with yet another thing they loved in their youth?” asks EW‘s Kyle Anderson in his review. “The filmmakers never came up with a resolution, which is why we have a reported $125 million effects parade with a crippling identity problem.”

To be fair, that’s pretty snark-free critique.

Read more from EW’s review, as well as a roundup of other notable critics, below.

Kyle Anderson (Entertainment Weekly)
The fussily art-directed, needlessly creepy-looking reptiles stay on the outskirts of the film for biblical gaps, leaving put-upon TV reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and lovelorn sidekick Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) to shoulder the burden of Turtles‘ dumb-as-nunchucks ransom plot…”

Wesley Morris (Grantland)
“Turtles fans might have been looking for their own Avengers. They get Alvin and the Chipmunks on performance enhancers and mass-market pizza instead. In Hollywood, history repeats first as farce, then as marketing.”

Bilge Ebiri (New York)
“Portentous when it should be goofy, lumbering when it should be spry, this reboot of the comic/movie/TV show wants to reimagine the beloved, tongue-in-cheek kids’ phenomenon into a more weighty, pseudorealistic action spectacle. … Your kids may not mind it, but it’s more insistent than it is fun.”

Justin Chang (Variety)
“It’s hard to avoid the sense that Bay, Liebesman and company are hitting all the iconic beats of the franchise, but not investing them with the sort of cleverness, gravitas or feeling that would allow this movie (and presumably, the two sequels in store) to coast along on something other than fan loyalty.”

A.A. Dowd (The A.V. Club)
“Kids in attendance may be suitably stimulated, while their millennial parents wonder how something so superficially familiar could fail to give them a nostalgic buzz. Bay may have kept the Turtles terrestrial, but their appeal will feel pretty alien to anyone who grew up saying ‘cowabunga’ without irony.”

Mark Olsen (Los Angeles Times)
“The turtles look lively and pretty lifelike, it must be said, but with no real-world correlation also more strange than anything else. Even though they are the title characters and the main attractions, the turtles often feel left in the background of their own movie.”

Tom Russo (Boston Globe)
“The CG characters’ slimy rendering and motion-capture expressiveness could go down with The Polar Express as a study in inadvertent, technologically misguided screen creepiness. Wackier would have been OK, guys—it’s the Ninja Turtles.”

Cliff Lee (Toronto Globe and Mail)
“The turtles are … mere caricatures, with viewers being asked to fill in the blanks through nostalgic memories of cheese pizzas and cowabungas. Instead, we are forced to care much too much about the lives of O’Neil and her cameraman.”

Justin Lowe (The Hollywood Reporter)
“Fox spends much of the movie acting bewildered as April tries to keep up with rapidly shifting plot developments, and Fichtner delivers a generically styled, simplistically motivated baddie. Arnett has the only role that comes close to matching the turtles’ verve…”

Claudia Puig (USA Today)
“The leering camera aimed squarely at Fox’s backside has the recognizably shallow mark of a Bay film. (She’s hit on by Turtles and humans alike.)”

Steven Rea (Philadelphia Inquirer)
“The production values and computer imaging may not be up there in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 league (and the 3-D effects certainly aren’t), but the Times Square battle zones, the thumping face-offs, the evil corporate masterminds are virtually interchangeable.”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 34
Rotten Tomatoes: 20 percent

Rated: PG-13
Length: 101 Minutes
Starring Megan Fox, Will Arnett
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Distributor: Paramount


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