Heroes on the half-shell are back in 'TMNT'
The last time the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- which, as any nostalgic Gen-Xer could tell you, is what "TMNT" stands for -- were on the big screen, those hardshelled heroes of comics and cartoons were played by a bunch of guys in rubber suits. Now the franchise has been revived as a computer-animated feature, and it's a definite improvement. Granted, that fact may be of limited interest to those older than age 13 or so, but the truth is that the Turtles are surprisingly entertaining in their latest incarnation. Parents who stick around to watch with their kids won't find it as rewarding as "The Last Mimzy," but it's certainly no dopier than "300." As the story begins, the heroes' perennial arch villain Shredder has been defeated for good, and the boys are at loose ends. Boss Turtle Leonardo goes on a globetrotting mission to sharpen his leadership skills and his brothers are under orders to keep a low profile and stay out of trouble. To stay busy, brainy Donatello starts a computer troubleshooting hotline, and slacker Michelangelo entertains at birthday parties dressed as Cowabunga Carl (a goof on the Turtles' cuddlier designs of yesteryear.) Rebellious Raphael, on the other hand, finds a way to get around the rules by suiting up in a mask and costume and sneaking out to put the hurt, Batman-style, on the city's no-goods. This stuff is mildly amusing, but it's a relief when a new threat rears its head and the Turtles must reunite as a team and hit the bricks like the old days. The threat itself is pretty much Funny Books 101 gobbledygook, involving a cosmic plan to bring ancient warriors back to life and wipe out civilization as we know it -- and only our heroes can save the world. (Dude, who needs the Justice League when you got big ol' turtles with swords hopping around?) Gobbledygook or not, the movie is lively and remarkably coherent. Adults won't care about the rivalry between rebellious Turtle Raphael and straight-arrow leader Leonardo, but that subplot will probably strike a chord among younger viewers. And the grudge match that results will likely be the talk of the playground at recess the next day. "TMNT" is an above-average example of commercial CGI -- not as substantial as "Shrek" or "The Incredibles" but indicative of some real care in the design. Rendering of the human characters is about on a par with TV's "Jimmy Neutron," but the film's slightly grittier visual take on the Turtles is a definite success. Most importantly, it moves well and fast and humorously. Kids will undoubtedly want to check out these new improved Turtles . . . and a lot of parents will probably be glad to have, uh, shelled out the extra bucks to relive their own childhoods alongside them.
Stars: Voices of Chris Evans, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Patrick Stewart Theaters: Palace 12, Cinemark Tulsa, Starworld 20, Owasso, Riverwalk, Eton Square, Admiral Twin Drive-in and Cinema 8 (Broken Arrow, Sand Springs) Running Time: 87 minutes Rated: PG (animated action violence, some scary cartoon images and mild language) Quality: * * (on a scale of zero to four stars)