Don’t get me wrong—it’s bad. It’s just that you probably think it’s a blazing inferno chemical disaster fire, and it’s not. It’s more like a mildly alarming dumpster fire. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is not a good movie, and if you’re over the age of thirteen, it’s not an enjoyable one. But if you’re under thirteen and you like movies about a bunch of creepy CGI monsters trying to murder one another, then it’s passable. Barely. I mean, it could be worse. It could be as bad as the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
We pick up one year after the events of the first movie, and in a particularly disheartening revelation, it occurs that the Ninja Turtle movies do a better job of managing continuity than the X-Men franchise. Intrepid Reporter April O’Neil (Fifth Face Megan Fox) is investigating obviously mad scientist Baxter Stockman, who is played by, improbably, Tyler Perry. This is the second time I’ve seen Perry act in a movie he isn’t directing (following Gone Girl) and damn if, once again, he’s surprisingly good. Perry understands that he’s in a two-hour commercial aimed at children starring nightmare hellbeasts, and acts accordingly. It’s an unexpectedly fun performance.
The MacGuffin this time is a serum that can turn terrifying swamp creatures into humans, and TMNT 2 is basically an amalgam of various superhero movies combining serums, sky lasers, extra-dimensional aliens, messages about the power of teamwork, and an anti-bullying plot pulled right out of Captain America. There’s also a dash of #darkness and #noparents, because everyone likes Batman.
The ninja turtles are working with Intrepid Reporter April O’Neil from the shadows—GET IT—because they let Will Arnett take the credit for their heroics in the first movie. They spend much of the movie arguing about whether or not to emerge from the shadows, or to use the serum to become more acceptably human, which is basically the self-acceptance plot of Frozen, except with demented-looking goons instead of charming Nordic princesses.
The turtle designs remain something straight out of Hieronymus Bosch’s most disturbing nightmares. They are the ugliest, gooniest, most unpleasant creature designs, maybe of all time. Everything about them is really f*cking off-putting and will make older members of the audience long for the olden days of rubber suits with frozen expressions. Younger members of the audience are screwed for life because they will have these godawful monsters forever buried in their subconscious, just waiting to kill erections when they spontaneously remember mid-coitus that Michelangelo totally wanted to bone Intrepid Reporter April O’Neil despite BEING A TURTLE.
Even though he’s unemployed and has the sub-Hawkeye-level useless superpower of being really good at hockey, Casey Jones shows up and immediately wins the race for Intrepid Reporter April O’Neil’s affections simply by virtue of possessing a human dick. Stephen Amell (Arrow) plays Casey, and he’s clearly enjoying playing a character who is allowed to smile and tell jokes for once. He has no chemistry with Fox, however, mostly because she plays every scene as if she is a blackboard with tits and a lady face drawn on it.
The saving grace of TMNT 2 comes from a trio of CGI bad guys: Krang, voiced by Brad Garrett, and Bebop and Rocksteady, voiced by Gary Anthony Williams (The Boondocks), and former WWE wrestler Stephen Farrelly, respectively. Krang, a giant talking brain in a jar, is f*cking weird in the most fun way, equal parts unsettling and bitchy. And Bebop and Rocksteady, a couple of punks turned into an anthropomorphized rhino (Rocksteady) and warthog (Bebop), are unironically delightful. They love being bad guys, they love turning into giant hellbeasts, and they love each other with equal enthusiasm. They are Bert & Ernie levels of devoted; it’s adorable.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a stupid movie with a barely-sensible plot that stars horrific mutant ogres. But some of the characters are fun, and though the movie bears all the hallmarks of a headache-inducing Michael Bay movie—despite being directed by Dave Green (Earth to Echo), a completely separate person—kids will get a kick out of the action scenes, which are the right mix of silly and exciting.
But it’s not the kind of movie that the whole family will enjoy, as it won’t appeal at all to any reasonable full-grown person. At the same time, it doesn’t make you want to set yourself on fire. I’ve seen that kind of bad movie, and TMNT 2 is not THAT bad. It’s a reasonable level of bad, given that it’s f*cking TMNT 2. It’s also entirely possible that I have been possessed by a demon after spending two hours staring into the dead, hollow eyes of a bunch of screaming nightmare monsters.
Attached – Stephen Amell promoting TMNT 2 in Philadelphia on Friday.