The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles don’t have a stake in my childhood. Unlike a lot of people my age, I didn’t grow up watching them and I only have a basic understanding of the characters and story. I don’t have anything against the Turtles, they just never really connected with me for some reason. The newest Turtles film (simply titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) isn’t meant for me and it’s not meant for nostalgic adults either. Instead, the fifth Ninja Turtles movie is clearly aimed at a younger audience and, with that in mind, I would say the movie is a success: it’s visually, thematically and narratively uninteresting, but children are sure to be entertained and the film’s surprisingly funny humor may just slap a smile on the faces of the adults as well.

New York City is being taken over by a secret organization known as The Foot Clan and reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is determined to uncover the truth regarding this group of criminals. After surviving one of their attacks, O’Neil discovers that they were thwarted by four large, genetically altered turtles named Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), Leonardo (Pete Ploszek, Johnny Knoxville) and Donatello (Jeremy Howard). These four turtles were created in an experiment conducted by Eric Sacks (William Fitchner), but grew up in the sewers after surviving a fire in Sacks’ lab. When the leader of the Foot Clan, Shredder (Tohoru Masamune), attacks the Turtles in their home, the wisecracking quartet looks to O’Neil and her coworker Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett) for help.

This is the first Turtles film to mix live action with computer generated imagery and, while the visual effects are adequate, the overall film is an ugly eyesore. Unlike the cartoonish Turtles that we’ve seen in the past, director Jonathan Liebesman goes for a look that seems to be as realistic as possible. This causes some problems because looking at these Turtles isn’t particularly pleasing. The Turtles’ master, Splinter, is so ugly that his mere appearance borders on terrifying. These terrible character designs are accompanied by dimly lit scenes that are visually uninteresting. Because of these problems, most of the action sequences come across as standard and uninteresting. But the one sequence that does work, works extremely well. The Turtles, along with Fenwick and O’Neil, escape from a facility and must traverse their way down a mountain, all while being chased by Foot Clan soldiers. It’s exciting, well-staged and, thanks to the Turtles, very funny. I would even say that it’s one of the best action sequences that I’ve witnessed all summer. Similar to the final train sequence in The Lone Ranger, it’s thrilling enough to wake you up from all the mediocrity that came before it.

Writers Josh Applebaum, André Nemec and Evan Daugherty must not have exerted too much effort into writing the script, because the story is about as generic and barebones as this type of film can get. It’s the basic story structure that they teach you in Screenwriting 101: the bad guy wants to take over the city, the Turtles must stop him etc etc. We’ve seen it done a million times before and it certainly doesn’t help that the villain’s motivations are so completely ridiculous. On top of this, Shredder comes across as a dull nemesis, so the majority of the scenes with him fall flat.

But story isn’t the reason why people love the Turtles: people love them for their personalities, sense of humor and feeling of camaraderie with each other. Thankfully, there’s enough of the Turtles in this film to save it from being a complete creative disaster. The first 20 minutes focus a bit too heavily on O’Neil, but once the Turtles finally get some screen time, the film immediately picks up. They’re such a joy to watch and their interactions together actually garner some big laughs for both kids and adults alike. Will Arnett also provides some comic relief and he’s somehow able to make the weak material work.

It’s a shame that everything surrounding the Turtles is so mediocre, because they actually manage to make the film kind of fun. Just imagine how much better this film could have been with a stronger story and more exciting visuals. I did have some decent fun with this movie, but all of my fun was reliant on the charisma of the Turtles. Children will certainly be able to overlook the film’s flaws and have a good time with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The adults in the audience may not be quite as forgiving, but I’m sure that Raphael, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Donatello will at least produce a smile from them as well.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles receives 2/4

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