Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows

Title: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote: 

Groundskeeper Willie: "If I don't save the wee turtles, who will?" "Aah! Save me from the wee turtles! They were too quick for me!"

Rating Using Random Object Relevant To The Film: Two Master Blasters out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis:
 Four reptilian freaks battle extradimensional threat, TO THE EXTREME.

Tagline: "Raise some shell."

Better Tagline: Hard to top anything as on the nose as "Raise some shell." How about, "Soup's on?"

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Six months have passed since Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Donatello (Jeremy Howard) and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) foiled Shredder's (Brian Tee) plan to launch a bio-weapon over New York City, but little has changed. The brothers are still forced to lurk in the sewers while Vern (Will Arnett) takes the credit and reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox) uncovers evidence that their old nemesis has enlisted noted scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) to help evil warlord Krang (Brad Garrett) enter our dimension and take over the Earth.

"Critical" Analysis:
 Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles back in the early ’80s as a goof: The characters were meant to be a parody of gritty comics characters like Daredevil and Frank Miller's Ronin. They subsequently acquired new life thanks to the wonders of action figure marketing, eventually generating several TV series (three animated, one live-action) and five (so far) movies. Out of the Shadows is the sequel to 2014's relaunch of the "heroes in a half shell," and the franchise's longevity is testament to both the idiosyncratic nature of success in America and Hollywood's need to extract every last dollar from its properties.

Recall that the last TMNT movie grossed almost $500 million. Combine that with backing from Michael Bay — who generated three billion dollars on movies showcasing urinating robots and Megan Fox's abdomen —  and the fact the lead characters are wholly computer-generated and will never age like those annoying Harry Potter kids, and you can look forward to your grandchildren watching Michelangelo and company battling Shredder atop Donald Trump's head on Mount Rushmore in 2056.

His will be the only head remaining, of course.

Fortunately for fans, the turtles themselves are just fine. The personalities are more distinct than those of their earlier cinematic incarnations, even if they'll remind you less of turtles than they will better-kitted mini-Hulks. Reunited screenwriters Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec take a stab at generating personality conflicts, but it's a hard sell when half their script consists of "Woo!" and "Whoa!" and "This is awesome!" Still, between "Mikey's" one-liners, Donatello's Star Trek levels of nonsensical techno-babble, and Raphael's rage issues, there's something not-wholly-inappropriate for all the (hopefully) pre-adolescent Turtle fans in your household.

Because as was the case in the first movie, the humans in the cast are its weakest link. New director David Green (late of the E.T./Super 8 ripoff Earth to Echo) throws Bay a bone by displaying Fox's April O'Neil in a makeshift Catholic schoolgirl uniform early on, which is unfortunately about as compelling as her character ever gets. She proved last time around she wasn't up to the task of holding her own alongside a quartet of guys in mo-cap suits, and little has changed here. Not even a tacked-on romantic angle with Amell's Casey Jones.

Amell fares slightly better in the film, stepping a bit out of Arrow's gloomy shadow and seemingly enjoying himself. Same with Arnett returning as Vern — Arnett is now one of those actors (see also Jack Nicholson or T.J. Miller) who play some version of themselves in everything — and also Perry, having a little too much fun as Dr. Stockman.

And then there's Laura Linney — three-time Academy Award nominee Laura Linney — playing Rebecca Vincent, the literal Stupid Chief who kicks Jones off the force and hunts the turtles down until she comes to her senses and realizes they have to work together to combat the real enemy (sentient screeching cephalopod Commander Krang). Linney has a young son, so perhaps the choice to appear in this can be chalked up to both her wanting to appear in something he'll appreciate (The Savages wasn't really kid material) and the fact that parenthood makes you dumb.

Out of the Shadows isn't a good movie, but you already knew that. The CGI is overbearing and the plot nonsensical, and the performances veer between incompetent and embarrassed. This should all be as surprising to you as the film's inevitable half-billion-dollar box office take and unending sequels. What a time to be alive.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar