By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
After a rather disappointing TMNT reboot in 2014, producer Michael Bay is back with a Ninja Turtle sequel that is actually better than the first installment. Even though the writing has improved, it still has some dumb moments and failed attempts at humor, but is not as painful and cringe-worthy as the previous movie. Hiring director Dave Green (Earth to Echo) proves to be a wise choice also as he, cinematographer Lula Carvalho, editors Bob Ducsay, Jim May, and the massive effects and technical crew compose and present some entertaining and thrilling action sequences that decidedly use the 3D format quite well. The result is a fun movie that has some flaws, but flaws that don’t overshadow the good stuff.
After saving New York City from Shredder’s (Brian Tee) evil plot, Michaelangelo (Noel Fisher), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Leonardo (Pete Ploszek) and Raphael (Alan Ritchson) remain in the shadows of the city, but continue to fight crime and protect the innocent. After getting foiled by the turtles, Shredder joins forces with brilliant scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) and decides to create mutants of his own. Shredder and Stockman recruit criminals Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly) and mutate them into massive and strong anthropomorphic animals to challenge their enemies. The work of Stockman and Shredder attracts the attention of extraterrestrial named Krang (Brad Garrett) who plans to invade and conquer the Earth.
Based on the characters created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, returning screenwriters Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec drew much inspiration from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon that originally aired between 1987 and 1996 and this really added to the enjoyment for me. I had a great time seeing the disgusting villain Krang for the first time on the big screen. Fans of that particular cartoon series should have a blast as well. Thankfully, more of the humor in the film works and the solid direction by Green makes for a more satisfying and enjoyable film. The story and plot material isn’t anything too deep or heavy, but is a good, old-fashioned parable with some valuable life lessons for children. This isn’t a movie with an adult demographic in mind, but is mainly a kids’ movie that has some nostalgic appeal for grown-ups who watched the old Ninja Turtles Cartoon.
Now, even though the writing and direction is improved, the movie still needs improvement in the acting department. First of all, what is Tyler Perry doing in this movie? Sure, he has been an adequate actor in some movies, but his over-the-top and hammy performance as Baxter Stockman is rather painful. Megan Fox may be somewhat easy on the eyes, but she just isn’t appropriate for the smart and brassy April O’Neil. Will Arnett, who returns as Vernon Fenwick, doesn’t get a lot of screen time here, but when he does appear, his material is pretty weak. New addition Stephen Amell performs adequately as Casey Jones, but is a bit wooden and stiff at times.
On the positive side, the voice and motion-capture actors portraying the CGI characters are the real stars of the show and definitely deliver the goods. Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, and Alan Ritchson comfortably resume their roles as the pizza-loving, ass kicking ninja turtles and are a joy to experience on the screen. As new villains, Bebop and Rocksteady, Gary Anthony Williams and Stephen Farrelly are obviously having a great time and this certainly adds to the audience’s enjoyment. Tony Shaloub returns to voice Splinter, the turtles’ sensei and father figure. Shaloub once again performs well, but doesn’t get as much screen time in this sequel. Finally, the disgusting and foul Krang is voiced by none other than Brad Garrett whose work here is superb.
Even though the movie itself isn’t superb, it definitely has much more going for it than the previous film. I really had a good time watching this movie and I truly believe it would make for a damn fine matinee at the cinema. For once, I would like to encourage people to see it in 3D because the effects look great and add to the enjoyment of the film. The movie has a PG-13 for “sci-fi action violence”, but in all honesty, the violence is rather cartoonish and not too intense for young viewers. These young viewers and the young-at-heart viewers who are Ninja Turtle fans are in store for a fun time at the theater.