Monday, 21 September 2020
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Animated)
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Tuesday, 27 March 2007 00:00
Who would have thought turtles would have such staying power? Back in the late 1980’s when the animated television series first broke into our Saturday morning routines, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were all the rage. How could our little 1980’s brains resist the draw of mutant turtles who fought ninja-style, ate pizza 24/7 and constantly spouted wisecracks? Not to mention the fact that these rude teenage freaks were named after masters of the Renaissance… very cutting-edge. The animated series gave birth to a pretty good live-action film that was huge at the box office, which gave birth to a not so good sequel, which in turn gave birth to a horrid third installment. But now the Turtles are back and just as hot as ever with the kids of 2007 in a new animated film called TMNT.

The movie wisely picks up in the modern day. Time has passed for the Turtles and they seem to have found themselves in a slump. Leonardo (the blue mask) has been off “finding himself” in the jungles of Central America. Donatello (the purple mask) works as a telephone computer-tech, while Michelangelo (the orange mask) hires himself out for kid’s parties as  “Cowabunga Carl”. Raphael (the red mask) can’t stand feeling useless and has taken to secretly patrolling the streets at night without his brothers. Their sensei Splinter (sort of like Yoda in a rat costume) is discouraged at his pupils’ lack of direction. After all, one can only spout so much nonsensical advise before weariness sets in.

One of the turtles’ human friends is April O’Neil (now an archeologist here instead of a reporter and voiced by Sarah Michelle Gellar) tracks down Leonardo and manages to convince him he’s needed at home in the Big Apple. Leo finally does return and the boys get back together to do battle against an immortal warlord (Patrick Stewart) who has unleashed 13 monsters upon the world and now is filled with regret. Wow, even the villain in this movie is feeling down! Apparently the Turtles are missing out on the most necessary part of living in the 90’s – anti-depressants!

Tensions run high between the reptilian brothers, especially Raphael whose blood runs cold (bad pun) at the thought of taking orders from Leo. This results in a rooftop fight scene between the two that I think is the centerpiece of the film, and is a visual treat. The animation throughout the film is actually quite stunning, having made leaps and bounds in progress compared to recent animated offerings. In fact the scenery and the Turtles themselves are so realistic that I sometimes forgot I was watching a cartoon at all. Unfortunately I was jarred back to reality each time a human character entered the scene. The humans were well designed but very cartoony which just didn’t seem to match the overall tone of the film. I hate to say it but I think it would have been great to see this done as a mix of CG and live actors.

I liked the somewhat somber feeling of the film, but thought it was lacking the witty banter and sarcasm that made Ninja Turtles so much fun. It’s nice to take the material seriously but not at the expense of what made it interesting in the first place.

Monctonians have something to be proud of since TMNT was written and directed by Moncton native Kevin Munroe. It’s an amazing accomplishment to be trusted with a project of this caliber. The film was number one on opening weekend, so after this box-office success we can look forward to seeing Munroe’s name associated with many films to come.

Great animation, but lacking in “Turtle Power”, I give TMNT 5 out of 10 stars.