First Posted: 8/11/2014
Jonathan Liebesman. I’ll repeat that. Jonathan Liebesman. Reread it and commit it to memory. Jonathan Liebesman. Fill a page in your journal with it. Bedazzle it to the center of your dream board and never, ever forget it. Remember his name because you’ll never remember any of his movies. The perpetrator behind “Battle: Los Angeles”, “Wrath of the Titans” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning”, Liebesman’s films are the cinematic equivalent to a dinner at Applebees – bland, regrettable and more expensive than it should be. He doesn’t make films that are meant to be watched, he makes the kind of films that blare mindlessly in the background as you perform minor household chores. He’s the hackiest of studio hacks, a man whose only skill appears to be insuring that the product placement in his films is gratuitous and in focus. In other words, Leibesman was the only person who could effectively translate the mediocrity and general ‘oof-this-really-isn’t as-much-fun-as-I-remember-it-being’ qualities of “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” cartoon to the silver screen.
In “TMNT” Megan Fox plays spunky girl reporter April O’Neil. Now, before I go any further I just want to point out that it would be very easy to make fun of the fact that Fox’s weirdly immovable face seems to be stuck in some kind of Botox/cheek implant infused state of paralyses. But what you have to keep in mind is that, prior to 2007, Fox was merely just a discarded Realdoll who was magically brought to life through the wishes of a horny 14 year old after he found her latex carcass hidden under a pile of leaves in the middle of the woods. Fox neither knows what facial expressions are nor is she able to register them through the polyurethane Realskin that covers her PVC skeleton. She’s doing the best job that a barely sentient Realdoll can do. Cut her some slack.
At any rate, while attempting to uncover the conspiracy behind a recent crime wave perpetrated by a group of ninjas dubbed the Foot Clan, April encounters a series of ones and zeroes that, as the movie repeatedly assures us, resemble giant humanoid turtles but more accurately resemble a really buff Jack Black if he had a series of painful skin grafts. As in the cartoon that inspired it, the “turtles” turn out to be totally dudical bro-skis who love to eat processed, not very good, chain restaurant pizzas almost as much as they love farting and making veiled references to their disgusting terrapin boners. Also, in semi-related news, Whoopi Goldberg is in this. Wha?!? Why? Nobody knows except Goldberg and she’s very busy with her vape pen. Please let she and Sippy be.
Much like this summer’s disappointing “Godzilla” reboot, “TMNT” spends too much of its running time focusing on its underwritten and thoroughly uninteresting human co-stars. But unlike “Godzilla”, when we finally manage to spend some time with Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and Donatello we realize just how loathsome the characters are. Spouting TOTALLY EXTREME(!!) H.W. Bush-era adolescent attitude and sass from a vaguely disinterested cast of voiceover artists (that inexplicably includes Johnny Knoxville), the Ninja Turtles serve as a not so gentle reminder of the dangers of ‘90s nostalgia and why all references to ‘rude’, ‘crude’ ‘party dudes’ must be quietly removed from our children’s history text books.
But with all of that said, I don’t want to leave you, the reader who’s currently half-reading this on the toilet, with a sour taste in your mouth. “TMNT”, does have its moments. For instance, any scene where the Turtles are shown traveling through the sewers with the childish, exuberance of someone who’s experiencing a water slide for the first time carries a frantic, spontaneous energy that the rest of the film lacks. But then, what does that really say about a movie when the best moment comes from watching off-putting turtle-men slide through digitally rendered peeps and poops? In 3-D, no less.