Its become all but a cliche, but its not easy being green. Just ask the turtles of CGI feature “TMNT” from a couple years back. Despite a notable voice cast, solid direction and a bevy of good intentions, the most this movie has to look forward to is reruns on Cartoon Network, which is why its prime material for the B-List Bargain Bin.
Set ostensibly in the world of the live-action movies, “TMNT” is set several years after (the extremely forgettable) “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Turtles in Time.” The Turtles have drifted apart. Donatello has become an overworked remote tech support specialist. Michelangelo is performing at birthday parties. Raphael has become a costumed vigilante – all while their once-fearless leader Leonardo has disappeared to points unknown. This comes until April O’Neil (Sarah Michelle Geller) tracks down Leonardo and fills him in on their brothers’ plight.
Now a professional treasure hunter herself, April deals with enigmatic CEO Max Winters (Patrick Stewart), much to the chagrin of her boyfriend Casey Jones (Chris Evan). Winters has a mysterious past – as well as an ominous future – and soon after April and Casey deliver the rare artifact, Winters makes a pact with the the Turtles’ favorite band of henchmen – the Foot Clan – to set an ominous plan into motion. Drawn back into the fold, Leonardo returns to retake leadership of the Turtles and galvanize them into action, but the emotional scars left by his departure may run too deep for the team to function.
The plot soon branches into a world of mythical monsters, cursed samurai, cameos by Kevin Smith, and of course, ninjas (sorry, no Vanilla Ice). The story is much deeper than you’d expect from a TMNT feature – especially with Winters’ subplot – but the premise at times becomes too complicated for its own good. It doesn’t help that much of the plot (and in particular the monsters) seem predicated on the premise of selling merchandise. Fortunately, the heart of the story – the Turtles themselves – remain memorable. In one scene, the Turtles engage in a battle involving shifting alliances and dozens of ninjas, while in another, two Turtles duel in a particularly gritty and heartfelt scene. Solid coordination on the part of director Kevin Munroe (the upcoming “Dylan Dog: Dead of Night” movie) elevates the flick far beyond your standard Saturday morning fare.
Ultimately, the movie deserved to be watched by each and every TMNT fan, despite both the flick’s flaws and obscurity. While this movie’s byzantine plot destined it for the bargain bin, “TMNT” deserves its place in the growing canon of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle films, even if its A-List cast and good intentions leave it looking like the red-headed step-mutant of the group.
Own TMNT for $5.97 shipped at Wal-Mart.