[Screen It]


(2017) (Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott) (PG-13)

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Sci-Fi: A disparate group of teens unexpectedly find themselves with superpowers they'll need to use to save the world from a power-hungry villain.
In the California town of Angel Grove, Jason (DACRE MONTGOMERY) is the star high school quarterback, but he hates the pressure of that and thus tries to pull off a wrong-headed prank that gets him in trouble with the police. It also lands him in school detention where he meets Kimberly (NAOMI SCOTT), a former cheerleader whose mean-spirited actions have resulted in her friends dumping her. He also saves tech nerd Billy (RJ CYLER) from a bully, and when Billy manages to circumvent Jason's home detention ankle bracelet, the jock agrees to drive him out to an active gold mine where Billy's father used to work.

There, they run into Kimberly and also meet Zack (LUDI LIN) whose brashness masks the fact that the only person he has in the world is his terminally ill mother, as well as Trini (BECKY G), whose tomboyish ways don't sit well with her high-strung mom. When Billy's latest experiment brings down part of a rock wall, the five are exposed to odd power coins that accidentally give all of them superpowers.

Trying to figure out what's happened, they return to the gold mine and end up in a cave system where they come across a long-buried spaceship that contains a sentient robot named Alpha 5 (voice of BILL HADER) who managed to place the essence of his master, Zordon (BRYAN CRANSTON), into the ship's computer system before his physical body died.

That was sixty-five million years ago when Zordon was one of several Power Rangers who were trying to thwart the efforts of one of their former team members, Rita Repulsa (ELIZABETH BANKS), who turned evil and simply wanted more power. The teens learn that due to them possessing those power coins they're to become the new Power Rangers. From that point on, they train in ways to battle Rita who's recently been resurrected and is amassing gold and created monstrous creatures to help her destroy the world in her quest to obtain a special power crystal.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
As long as there will be teens with issues -- which as any parent knows means forever -- there will be stories about their fictional counterparts who face something similar (or older role models who were once in the same boat) and then end up with unorthodox ways of dealing with their problems.

That's long been the appeal of many comic book series and related movie adaptations such as those featuring the X-Men, Spider-Man, and so on that make their readers and viewers feel that they're not alone in their struggles and can live vicariously through their fictional exploits.

With that in mind, and if one were to tell such a tale of a group of teenage superheroes, where would you find a number of kids with problems in one place? Yes, school would be one answer, but specifically where in such an institution? Well, my guess would be after-school or weekend detention.

If you can imagine a radioactive spider crawling along the tables of the library in "The Breakfast Club" and biting the likes of Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez and Anthony Michael Hall, you'd be headed in the right direction to configure "Saban's Power Rangers."

Now, to be perfectly clear, just three members of the unlikely quintet here are in detention, but the two who've avoided such punishment have their issues. And no, there's no actual spider or resultant "spidey sense" or web-slinging.

Instead it's some long-buried (as in 65 million years) power coins unearthed from a gold mine that imbue five teens with super strength, jumping and climbing ability and -- when they finally figure out how to control their powers -- the ability to morph into the title figures. Yeah, go ahead and cue the "Go, go Power Rangers" theme song.

If you don't know what that means, it's what played in the related TV show that debuted in 1993 and has continued running ever since in various iterations. Granted, I was too old for that and never saw an episode. And I couldn't tell you if I saw the two theatrical movies -- 1995's "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie" and "Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie" two years later -- that emerged from the series. If I did, I certainly don't recall anything about them.

In that regard, will I remember anything about this new reboot twenty years from now? Aside from being 73 and possibly suffering from some sort of mental decline, I otherwise doubt it as the film is fairly unremarkable. Younger teenagers and current adults who grew up with the TV series might think differently, but this follows the origins story game plan to a T and doesn't do much of anything special with that (beyond featuring one character on the autism scale and another who's uncertain of her sexual orientation).

Following a prologue featuring Bryan Cranston playing a Power Ranger who calls on a meteor strike to wipe out his villainous counterpart (a barely recognizable Elizabeth Banks) back in the days of dinosaurs, we move to present day Angel Grove where we meet our five main characters and their related issues.

There's Jason (Dacre Montgomery) who apparently doesn't like being the star high school quarterback and thus ruins that and a future collegiate role by pulling a prank that ends with a police chase. Kimberly (Naomi Scott) has become a cheerleader outcast for sharing a presumably explicit photo of her friend with the boy that friend likes, while techie Billy (RJ Cyler) gets into trouble when his inventions go wrong. Zack (Ludi Lin) has only one person in his life and that's his terminally ill mother, while Trini (Becky G) has her own mother issues in the form of a tightly wound parent who doesn't understand her teen's tomboyish ways.

Through reasons a bit too contrived in John Gatins' script, they all end up at a gold mine where one of Billy's experiments blows away part of a rock wall, exposing the aforementioned power coins. And they do so just as the body of our villain happens to be scooped up in a commercial fishing net, thus allowing her to come out of tens of millions of years of stasis.

And as she starts collecting and supernaturally smelting gold to power herself and an eventual giant demon monster, the kids meet the wall-bound essence of Cranston's Zordon character in a long-buried spaceship where he and his small robot assistant, Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader) try to train them to become Power Rangers.

After all, Zordon knows what Rita Repulsa is capable of doing. No, that's not a typo as that's her name, and yes, parts of the film are campy, including a pivotal plot point that involves, of all things, Krispy Kreme donuts. As Robin the Boy Wonder might say, "Holy product placement, Batman!"

So, the first act introduces the characters, the second features them training, and the third is a big, CGI effects showcase of the teen heroes battling our hyper-campy villain and her various monstrosities. It all feels a bit too much like "Transformers Lite," and while diehard fans of the show might dig it, I quickly found all of director Dean Israelite's large-scale action battle moments redundant, tiresome and not particularly enthralling.

Which pretty much sums up the overall flick. It's not awful, but I wish the powers that be had fully committed to camp or otherwise done something novel or interesting with the well-worn kids get superpowers storyline. They don't, and thus "Saban's Power Rangers" rates no better than a 4.5 out of 10.

Reviewed March 22, 2017 / Posted March 24, 2017

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