Hell in a half-shell


April 22, 2007, midnight | By Laura Mirviss | 13 years, 9 months ago

In fourth installment, slow and steady would have won the race


Say you're a four-year-old boy and you love action figures, Power Rangers and spitting on grown-ups. Farting is funny, girls have cooties.

For you, turtle power is pretty cool. For the rest of us, the turtle team should have extended their 14-year hiatus.

The Turtles surfaced 23 years ago, the brainchildren of Peter Laird, who fashioned them as a parody of the incomprehensible and brain-corroding super-hero genre. In "Turtles" unfortunately, director Kevin Munroe serves up an incomprehensible plot and inane dialogue — exactly what the original franchise so brilliantly mocked.

In ancient times, or rather, 3,000 years ago, a scheming villain tried to take over the universe. The villain wreaked havoc on the citizens of planet Earth and with the help of his supernatural powers, he aligned the stars and became immortal. His army of legions turned to stone beasts. To make matters worse, 13 teeth-gnashing monsters began to roam Earth. The reasons for these occurrences remain ambiguous. Confused yet? Me too.
Now, the stars have again aligned, and 3,000 years since that fateful day, it is up to the Turtles to destroy the bad guy and his army of stone soldiers. The shelled Ninjas must find a way to send the evildoers up to the stairway of heaven, and into oblivion.

Yes, it seems that plot construction was left off of Munroe's to-do list, in an effort to appease the five-second attention spans of his under five audience. Resorting to unsophisticated and ridiculous stream-of-conscious story lines are a staple of action hero drama, a disease that Munroe too falls victim.

Too bad Mom or baby-sitter must stomach a seemingly infinite supply of mind-numbing Cowabunga-dude proclamations.

Shot with CGI, the explosions and grotesque scenes of a decrepit New York City are artful. In a particularly striking sequence, turtle brothers Leonardo and Raphael duke it out on the New York skyline — a testosterone-fueled brawl accented by an aesthetically pleasing whirlwind of dark buildings and pouring rain. Hot head Raphael is jealous of Leonardo's title of leader of the band, and the two Ninja-fight along the rooftops.

It is clear that Munroe paid careful attention to cinematography and art direction, at the expense of an understandable story line. In a typical sequence, turtles fight off a monster gorilla beast, return to their lair, make fun of Michelangelo, jump to another building, destroy an army of red-eyed creatures and plot how to save the world. Plot fallacies this severe are a common symptom of combined director-writer roles, as was the case with Munroe. In writing and directing, Munroe bit off more than he could chew — in his artsy-fartsy directorial endeavors, he forgot to correct his flawed plot and stilted dialogue.

It was also disheartening to see turtle sidekick heroine April clothed in a skin-tight yellow suit, designed with an hourglass body and a booty that would make Jennifer Lopez jealous. In her typical, oh so scintillating, damsel-in-distress voice, April begs Leonardo to rejoin the gang. "Your brothers need you, Leo. They're lost without you." April's brain-cell count? Five. In a film that caves to all sorts of stereotypes, the depiction of the ditzy, bodacious, boy-worshipping female hero might be the most damaging, especially for the screaming four-year-old boy audience.

"TMNT" (87 minutes, wide release) is rated PG animated action violence, some scary cartoon images and mild language.




Laura Mirviss. Laura Mirviss is far more excited than she should be about being on the Chips staff this year. She loves field hockey, lacrosse, The New Yorker, and Ben and Jerry's. When trying to keep things in perspective, Laura likes to remember the words of Ferris … More »

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