Given the resurgence of comic movies over the last decade, it was only a matter of time before we were treated to a new incarnation of our favourite heroes in a half-shell. This time around however, instead of live action with guys in big rubber suits, we have 100 per cent CGI turtles in an animated romp which takes place loosely after the three previous movies. All together now, cowabunga!

Years after Shredder’s defeat, the band of brothers are essentially broken up with a growing distance between them. Leonardo (James Arnold Taylor) is training in Central America, Michelangelo (Mikey Kelley) is moonlighting as a disguised-clown, Donatello (Mitchell Whitfield) is working as an IT-call repair advisor and Raphael (Nolan North) has become a vigilante crimefighter called ‘the Nightwatcher’. Elsewhere, immortal warrior Max Winters (Patrick Stewart) is hunting strange creatures and searching for old statues.

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The main stumbling block that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (or as the cool kids are calling it, TMNT) faces, is that it may be instantly be written off by many viewers tarring it too childish or juvenile. Unlike other comic-inspired franchises like Batman, where the use of a recognisable actor like Christian Bale and a new ‘dark’ approach can pull the adults in too, TMNT will probably struggle to seem mature enough for the cynical out there.

The plot doesn’t help much either. A bit contrived at times, not as dark as promised and often a trifle silly, the whole Max Winters storyline about collecting alien beasts is head-scratchingly executed at times and feels more kiddie-aimed than anything else. Ah well, at least the producers will make a shed-load from selling turtle-themed lunch boxes.

On the other hand, when the story deals with the turtles and their family rift, it, surprisingly, excels and is quite moving. Unlike the rushed-along, exposition-spouting action stages, the ‘divided family’ aspect is easy to relate to, with the Leonardo/Raphael dynamic proving to be the emotional crux that TMNT so badly needs. We do get a decent amount of characterisation but it’s tough not to feel that more time spent with our amphibian friends instead of on secondary characters and moving statues would have raised this feature above an average rating.

As far as the animation goes, its largely very effective. Our titular heroes look good, there are many cool shots (a jacked-up Raphael looking down from a rooftop springs to mind) and unless you go looking for flaws and rough-edges, the movie can pass by without faults appearing too obvious. In particular, the rainy-downpour showdown between Leo and Raph is worth paying attention to. As we all know, show-downs in rain are always just that bit cooler.

Though its not as satisfying as the turtles resurfacing could have been, kids’ enthusiasm and nostalgic visits by Eighties kids will probably ensure that a sequel is greenlit. On the other hand, if you can successfully suspend your disbelief then you might find that TMNT is worth – ahem – shelling out for.

Reviewed on: 10 Apr 2009
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The heroes in a half shell are back on the big screen.
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Scott Macdonald ***

Director: Kevin Munroe

Writer: Kevin Munroe, based on the comic books created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird

Starring: Chris Evans, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mitchell Whitfield, James Arnold Taylor, Nolan North, Mikey Kelley, Mako, Patrick Stewart, Laurence Fishburne, Kevin Michael Richardson, Ziyi Zhang, Fred Tatasciore, Paula Mattioli, John Di Maggio

Year: 2007

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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