[Screen It]


(2016) (Pete Ploszek, Jeremy Howard) (PG-13)

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Sci-Fi/Action: A group of teenage mutant ninja turtles try to stop their archenemy from getting his hands on an interdimensional portal that will allow extraterrestrials to arrive and potentially conquer Earth.
A year after having defeated the villainous Shredder (BRIAN TEE) who's now locked away in prison, teenage mutant ninja turtles Leonardo (PETE PLOSZEK), Donatello (JEREMY HOWARD), Raphael (ALAN RITCHSON), and Michelangelo (NOEL FISHER) live a life of secrecy under New York City with their rat sensei, Splinter (voice of TONY SHALHOUB). Their heroic actions have publically been attributed to TV cameraman Vernon Fenwick (WILL ARNETT), while TV reporter April O'Neil (MEGAN FOX) serves as their human helper in the light of day.

She's currently tracking brainiac inventor Baxter Stockman (TYLER PERRY) who the group believes is working for Shredder's forces. And that turns out to be true when they end up teleporting Shredder from the prison transport truck -- where he was accompanied by common criminals Rocksteady (STEPHEN FARRELLY) and Bebop (GARY ANTHONY WILLIAMS) -- and into the presence of extraterrestrial Krang (voice of BRAD GARRETT). That alien wants Baxter's invention to help assemble a device that will open an interdimensional portal to Krang's galaxy and allow him to bring an Earth-conquering weapon into Manhattan.

That plan initially isn't apparent to corrections guard Casey Jones (STEPHEN AMELL) who lost Shredder, Rocksteady, and Bebop during the ambush, and his dreams of becoming a detective thus don't look likely under police chief Rebecca Vincent (LAURA LINNEY) who's less than pleased by the escape. When she finally gets sight of the teenage mutant ninja turtles, she isn't sure what to make of them or what sort of threat they might pose. But they do when it comes to Shredder and Krang, and with the help of April, Casey, and Vernon, they set out to stop the villains before it's too late.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Considering their reptilian namesakes are some of the slowest cold-blooded critters around, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles certainly have shown up in plenty of vehicles ever since arriving on the scene back in 1984. And by vehicles, I mean comic books, a toy line, an animated TV show, video games, a series of live-action movies, another animated TV series and then another live action movie.

The last, of course, was 2014's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," a critically maligned but rather financially successful reboot of the old Jim Henson related flicks from the 1990s. I didn't see that recent version (another Screen It reviewer covered and lambasted it), and I haven't seen most of the other media forms aside from the earlier live-action films long ago. Yet, it would seem trying to come up with a story for these fellas might be difficult (especially with the origin tale handled last time around), and that shows in the follow-up sequel, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows."

That latter part of the title sort of indicates where the flick is headed story-wise. While our plucky shelled quartet -- Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) -- still operate in the shadows of Manhattan (mostly at night), there are rumblings of slight resentment that a TV cameraman (a returning Will Arnett) has received all the glory related to their past defeat of the villain Shredder (Brian Tee). Much like the X-Men, these mutants view themselves as unwelcome outsiders who don't and can't fit into society, and screenwriter Josh Appelbaum & André Nemec's script occasionally touches on that.

But since the film is aimed at a younger crowd, that's tempered by fart material, messy eating, and low-brow humor, all as filtered through the lens of Michael Bay. He's not the director -- that job's been handled by Dave Green -- but as one of the producers the film has the look and feel of a Transformer flick, no doubt furthered along by the presence of Megan Fox.

In fact, considering how everything plays out -- the film involves, among other things in an overly convoluted storyline, an extraterrestrial who wants to conquer Earth -- I kept thinking Optimus Prime, Bumblebee or one of their ilk would show up at some point to save the day or at least engage in battle.

In their place, we have two animal/human hybrids (played by Stephen Farrelly and Gary Anthony Williams) who sport warthog and rhino characteristics respectively and provide presumed comic relief along the lines of those "Transformer" pics. They work for the bad guy, while the good guys, along with Fox and Stephen Amell (as a prison guard who wants to become a detective) try to stop them. And that's all as Laura Linney stands around acting as if she's contemplating getting a new agent or at least wondering what caused her to agree to appear in this.

I'll admit this isn't the complete train wreck I anticipated, as some of the action scenes are handled decently and most of the special effects are easily up to snuff. And if I was 8 or 9 years old and not yet allowed to view the cinematic worlds of the Marvel and DC Comics universes, this might seem like fun and maybe exciting stuff. But as someone far removed from that demographic, most of this comes off like recycled material, busy yet never that engaging.

Perhaps it's time for the turtles to take a media break and return to their shells. Only time and box office receipts will determine whether they take that advice, but I can say without pause that "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows" only rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed June 1, 2016 / Posted June 3, 2016

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