It’s telling that 2014’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” was simultaneously nominated for favorite movie at the Kids’ Choice Awards and worst movie by both the Razzies and Golden Schmoes.
For the record, the movie’s Megan Fox won the Razzie for worst supporting actress that year, for a performance that was closer to a busty, fully articulated action figure than an actual human being. What do you expect? She was cast for one reason: to give fans of the enduring franchise – some of whom have grown from little boys to, er, much bigger boys since discovering it on Saturday morning TV – something to look at, besides talking CGI turtles.
In the new 3-D sequel, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,” there’s actually plenty of eye candy, including Fox, who returns as intrepid reporter (and friend of the titular crime fighters) April O’Neil. The action sequences are well staged, and the story boasts fun, new villains, including the alien Krang (voice of Brad Garrett), who looks like chewed-up bubble gum with a face, as someone put it, and two mutant human henchmen who have been turned into a talking rhinoceros named Rocksteady and a warthog named Bebop (Stephen Farrelly, aka the pro wrestler “Sheamus,” and Gary Anthony Williams, respectively).
Those characters, who will be familiar to students of the “TMNT” universe, are only new in the sense that they were not in the previous movie, which was roundly criticized for lacking the sense of cracked fun that the franchise deserves. That problem has been largely corrected here; “Out of the Shadows” is, at least, deliciously silly, even if it is also decidedly forgettable. Like a well-plated but nutrition-free meal, it registers on the senses while being bad for you.
Set one year after the action of the last film, which ended with the apprehension of the archvillain Shredder (Brian Tee, replacing Tohoru Masamune), the plot is set in motion by Shredder’s escape from custody, engineered by the nefarious Dr. Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry, in a performance that makes his Madea character seem like a marvel of understatement). After allying themselves with Krang, who hopes to use a trans-dimensional portal to attack Earth with his Death Star-like Technodrome, the bad guys face off against the titular heroes.
Each of them – though voiced by four guys you’ve never heard of in motion-capture suits – manage to project distinct, if less than vivid, personalities. (Let me put it this way: It helps that they wear color-coded masks.)
“Out of the Shadows” isn’t going to win any awards, good or bad. Neither an embarrassment nor a triumph, it is nevertheless an improvement over the last film. That may not be saying much, for a movie in which wise-cracking adolescent reptiles with nunchucks and katana swords do most of the talking.
Two and one-half stars. Rated PG-13 for mature themes and suggestive material. 110 minutes.
Ratings Guide: Four stars masterpiece, three stars very good, two stars OK, one star poor, no stars waste of time.