Monday, May 18, 2009

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie (1990) review!!

You may have heard that they've recently announced a brand new live action Ninja Turtles movie (rejoice!!!). So the other night I took a trip down memory lane and watched the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie from 1990. Though I'd already seen it countless times growing up, it had been a couple years. Here are my impressions:

THIS MOVIE ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There are some movies that you love as a kid, but once you grow up you see the flaws: poor script, aged special effects, bad acting, etc. But not TMNT. Although it has aged and has its share of now-embarrassing moments (the Turtles doing celebrity impressions with April in her apartment, and April's acting in general), the movie still brings on a rush of great memories and good solid JOY just like it did back in the day. Some highlights of the film:

1) The movie stays close to the original underground comics that the Turtles made their very first appearance in, so the movie retains much of its dark, urban atmosphere. The fight scenes, while mostly comedic (too much so in my opinion, but hey, it was made with kids in mind), still pack a punch, especially in the Turtles' final confrontation with the Shredder. This is one scary dude, and the heroes fighting him is a truly intense scene and a true climax to the film. And although the evil Foot Clan has been transitioned from the comic book's assassins to the more family-friendly "ninja thieves," the change works, because it solidifies one of the TMNT's most powerful themes: the importance of family. The film parallels three families: the Turtles' close and tender relationship with each other and their father-figure and rat sensei Splinter; the strained relationship between April's boss Charles and his delinquent son Danny (who is secretly in training with the evil Foot Clan); and the Shredder's "family," the Foot Clan, which is brutal to its enemies but promises a safe haven for wayward teens (including Danny) who feel estranged from their real families--without the teens realizing that the Shredder is just using them as foot soldiers in training and as disposable agents in his crime ring. The scenes where Danny goes to a captured Splinter for guidance and Splinter teaching him that "all fathers care for their sons," are truly touching as Danny slowly realizes the great love his father has for him, while the Shredder's fatherhood is just a facade by a truly evil man. The light-heartedness of the film is underlined by some pretty mature themes and scenes, striking a great balance of fun, and thought- and feeling-provoking.

2) The movie is absolutely hilarious. It has tons of cheesy lines, but the jokes are very, very witty. Just go on IMDB and look up TMNT's quotes for scores of examples. One of my favorites is when Donatello and the Turtles' vigilante friend Casey Jones are trading insults like "dome head," "elf lips," and "gack face." It's only when Don asks Casey what letter they're on that you realize they're insulting each other alphabetically. Also funny is when the guys are watching the old Fractured Fairytales cartoon of The Tortoise and the Hare and a frustrated Michaelangelo yells at the slow Tortoise to just "Ninja kick the (bleep) rabbit!!" Although the movie has the dressings of a stupid, cheap gag kids' movie, the writing and story themes are quite deep and it's obvious that a lot of love went into the making of it.

3) Elias Koteas as Casey Jones. Many actors may have just put their time in on a movie many would consider below them, but not my man Elias. He nails Casey Jones and makes the butt-kicking vigilante come to life. With his spot-on portrayal of Casey the tough crime fighter, the lovable goof, and the slightly dim-witted urban everyman (in the movie April describes him as "a nine-year-old trapped in a man's body....He might almost be cute if not for the pigheadedness"), Koteas becomes the best character in the movie, stealing every scene he's in. His final confrontation with the more-skilled and very deadly Foot lieutanant Tatsu starts off with Casey getting his butt handed to him, but ends with Casey knocking the crap out of the villain with a golf club ("FORE!"). Pure movie magic that honestly made me jump up and cheer! (It's true!)

So if you've never had the treat of feeling the magic of 1990's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, do yourself a huge favor and check it out. If you haven't watched it in a while, go ahead and pop that DVD in (or the old VHS tape you know you watched a million times, with that Little League Pizza Hut commercial at the beginning). By the time the credits roll and you hear Partners in Kryme's rap "T-U-R-T-L-E Power," you'll be in Turtles euphoria.


REN said...

I *LOVE* that movie!! =Þ Why don't they make more stuff like *THAT*?!

Casey Jones: "This is great. First it was The Farm That Time Forgot and now this. Why don't I ever fall in with people who own condos?"

Anonymous said...

Great review......and REN I agree, why don't they make movies like that anymore? Fun, smart, true to the source.....stands the test of time.