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I’m not going to spend a lot of time mining the depths of the latest “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie, now in theaters, looking for nuggets of worldview gold.
That would be like fishing for your next meal in a mud puddle. There is nothing deep about this movie at all.
But that’s not all bad, either. Parents are either going to find this film values-affirming fun or overly violent fare, but either way, they don’t have to worry about subtle, Hollywood influences plying their children.
This latest attempt at rebooting the popular cartoon, comic and toy series is exceeding expectations at the box office with a strong appeal to kids and their parents, many of whom grew up watching the Turtles on Saturday mornings.
This newest version of the pizza-loving, sewer-living, mutated turtle dudes with mad martial arts skills has all the action and glitz of a cool, summer movie – at least for those who actually use words like “dude,” “mad skills” and “cool” – including producer Michael Bay, who is known far more for big explosions than making good films. His “Transformers” movies are the perfect examples.
And from a Michael Bay perspective, the movie doesn’t disappoint, with big fight scenes, incredible chase scenes, lots of stuff blowing up and technical wizardry all wowing the audience while masking the fact that there isn’t an actor, script or storyline worth its salt anywhere to be found.
Movie critics are not going to like this movie, and for plenty of reasons.
The kids who the movie is aimed at, however, will probably find it fun and exciting, like a birthday party at an ice-cream parlor – it’s all sweets and sugar and happy memories at first, but brain freezes are likely, with a strong chance of hyperactivity to follow.
For some parents, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” will actually be a welcome diversion, especially as it strongly develops a message of brotherly love, humility, forgiveness and working together, instead of selfishly, to achieve a goal. It’s refreshing to have a big-budget, fun-loving movie with a moral of the story parents can support.
For other parents, however, the level of violence in this movie is going to be a major drawback. And make no mistake, there is a big body count in this movie, as the Turtles battle wave after wave of “Foot” soldiers with brutal, hand-to-hand combat, even laughing about how badly they damage their enemies, even though in real life, said enemies would likely need medical attention for years to recover.
I don’t see moms and dads really getting much out of this painfully mediocre movie, even if they did enjoy the cartoon series as kids.
As for their kids, who will almost certainly enjoy it just for the spectacle (and 6-foot-tall, pizza-loving, talking turtles, Mom!), it’s going to come down to how parents react to this kind of cartoonish, unrealistic violence.
Perhaps the best advice may be to recognize this entire film is a bit dark for those 5-year-olds in the audience, but for those old enough to discern this kind of violence isn’t to be mimicked, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” seems to be just about as low-brow and high-hijinks as its name would suggest, with just enough Michael Bay to make sure the entertainment value distracts you from how bad it really is.
- “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is rated PG-13, though mostly for violence, as it contains only four obscenities and profanities.
- Sexuality is fairly minor as well (a surprise for film starring Megan Fox), though there are a few innuendos and a few characters who repeatedly hit on the lead female character. There is no nudity, very little skin in general and no romantic scenes. There is a brief shot of the lead actress’ clothed behind and a pair of scenes where lingerie models can be seen on billboards – including one during the credits in which the Turtles “hide” on the billboard model’s bra.
- Violence, as mentioned earlier, is heavy, with many scenes of hand-to-hand combat, car chases and gunfire. Dozens of people are killed in the film, or would be killed if they actually endured the abuse displayed, but only a few deaths are actually portrayed. Martial arts weapons, a mainstay of the Turtles franchise, are definitely portrayed as “cool,” and parents should expect their children will want to play act the weapon skills.
- The movie has almost no religious or occult content. Though there is a fair amount of Eastern, martial arts lingo and training, there is little to none of the typical, accompanying mysticism depicted. There is a tandem of villains who declare at one point they will “be like gods” if their plan for power succeeds.