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Cowabunga! Turtles Shells Out Action + Attitude

Cowabunga! <i>Turtles</i> Shells Out Action + Attitude

DVD Release Date: December 16, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: August 8, 2014
Rating: PG-13 (sci-fi action violence)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Run Time: 101 minutes
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Cast: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner

New York City’s Channel 6 reporter April O’Neill (Megan Fox) longs to break free of her “foamy” assignments to deliver some hard news for a change. When she stumbles across a vigilante foiling a theft by the notorious Foot Clan, Megan thinks she’s found her big break. But it’s when she discovers that her mysterious hero is not one, but four—and quite the unusual quartet they are—that things start to get really interesting.

It’s the combination that boggles the mind: Teenage. Mutant. Ninja. Turtles... that talk. And fight crime. Because, of course, they’re ninjas trained by their “father,” a talking rat named Splinter (Danny Woodburn, voiced by Tony Shaloub). Riiiiight. No wonder April’s devoted cameraman Vernon (Will Arnett) thinks she’s crazy. Wouldn’t you?

But enough about the humans; the real stars of the show are the turtles (one of the film’s flaws is that the ratio of human-to-turtle screen time is skewed toward the people). The guys are energetic, funny, and goodhearted, plus they have mad ninja skills. Even without their color-coded masks to identify them each has a distinct personality. Leonardo (Pete Ploszek, voiced by Johnny Knoxville) is the responsible one. He and Raphael (Alan Ritchson) tend to clash, mostly thanks to Raphael’s anger issues. Donatello (Jeremy Howard) is the geeky genius brother, an adorable nerd with taped-together glasses who politely requests permission to “be the bada** for once.” Then there’s Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), the self-proclaimed ladies’ man who unwitting provides most of the laughs. They’re all fun and so is this film that bears their name.

There have been several versions of “how the turtles came to be” and this one serves the story well. No spoilers, but in this outing April’s past and the turtles’ future are tied together. Of course, if they don’t work together to stop the evil Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) and the Foot Clan’s nefarious plot to poison the world, none of them will have a future to worry about.

While the green defenders look more mature in this outing than they appear on Nickelodeon, we never forget that our turtle friends are teens—with all the attitude that implies. Despite their “bad to the shell” bravado, a turtle’s steely resolve can be broken by the sight and smell of a steaming hot pizza. They may squabble among themselves but when their tight-knit group is threatened they stand shell-to-shell to stare danger in the face. It’s clear that you don’t have to share the same blood (or even the same species) to be a family.

There are fun nods to popular culture as well as to a variety of sci-fi classics, but you’ll have to pay attention and listen fast to hear them. It’s a fast-paced, high-action story that takes no prisoners. The fighting and perilous situations are often intense, possibly too much for small, sensitive viewers. It’s not so much the number of people killed and wounded as the casual cruelty displayed by villains who use murder as a visual aid. Naturally, ninja skills are displayed by a number of characters locked in brutal ballets of battle. Warning: If you take boys to see this movie (or many girls, for that matter), be prepared to keep them outside for some time after or risk damage to your decor. The super-cool weapons (swords, nunchuks, fighting sticks, etc.) and awesome fighting moves just beg to be tried out at home.

After a (literally) shaky start the camera settled down to feature a number of beautiful overhead shots including a couple of dives that will leave some viewers downright queasy, especially in 3D showings. The expected “super slo-mo” effect is used sparingly and to good effect during select fights. Comic book-style sequences during opening and closing credits are beautifully rendered but there’s no need to wait through the credits unless you just like reading them; you won’t miss anything else. And don’t worry, turtle fans: The story set up an obvious sequel so the heroes on the halfshell will no doubt be back before you can say “Cowabunga!”

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  None. The turtles’ abilities are due to a “mutagen” injected into them as youngsters but it’s a scientific experiment rather than abuse.
  • Language/Profanity: Not much and easily overlooked in all the excitement: a couple of he**, da**, sh**, and several references to a** (usually in regard to kicking or being kicked). “Numbnuts” used as friendly insult.
  • Sex/Nudity: Some jokes and suggestive language: “She’s so hot I can feel my shell tightening” and references to “adult conversations” and “consenting adults.” A brief cleavage shot (not close). Vernon takes a good, long look at April’s backside as she leans out a window. A visual gag involving a Victoria’s Secret billboard and two turtles who strategically camouflage themselves on the model’s bra.
  • Violent/Frightening/Intense: Martial arts action and violence throughout, including casual murder, bombs, gunfire, and destruction.
  • Spiritual Themes: The spiritual aspect of martial arts/ninja training is glossed over. A man bent on world domination proclaims “we will be gods” but he does not appear to mean it in the literal sense.

Publication date: August 8, 2014