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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an edgier live-action take on the legendary talking reptiles who emerge from the New York sewers to defend the city. The sometimes-explosive violence includes a lot of martial arts fighting, a flashback to a devastating fire, Turtles being tortured, and near deaths; in other words, it's too intense for younger fans of Turtle toys/merchandise, though it should be OK for tweens and up. And while this Michael Bay/Nickelodeon co-production doesn't have a lot of strong language (just insults like "stupid" and "idiot"), there are several references to April O'Neil's (Megan Fox) sexy body (she's called a "hot chick," one Turtle jokes that his "shell is tightening" around her, and her butt is stared at leeringly). The Turtles care about teamwork and brotherhood, and they work hard to defend the city against Shredder.
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What's the story?
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES -- yet another incarnation of the legendary sewer-dwelling, pizza-loving reptiles -- takes place in New York City, where a crime wave is unleashed by the evil Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) and his gang of goons, the Foot Clan. Investigating a mysterious vigilante standing up to the Foot Clan, TV reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox) runs in to not one crime fighter but four: masked talking turtles named Leonardo (performed by Pete Ploszek, voiced by Johnny Knoxville), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), and Raphael (Alan Ritchson). At first, they make her faint, but later they remind her of an old lab experiment conducted by her dead father and Eric Sachs (William Fichtner), a well-known scientist in the city. As April connects the dots, she agrees to help the Turtles (and break a story about the underground heroes), but they all fall prey to Shredder's master plan to control the city. The only way to save New York is to work together.
Is it any good?
Tweens and teens are likely to enjoy this fun live-action reboot. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles combines producer Bay's signature explosive thrills and obsession with Fox's body with the impressively realistic Turtles, thanks to Industrial Light & Magic's performance-capture technology (similar to WETA's technology for Rise of the Planet of the Apes). Younger viewers are unlikely to quibble or care about the various ridiculous plot points or unintentionally funny one-liners -- or the many ways that April is reduced from an all-around awesome character to the object of lust for both the Turtles (specifically Mikey) and her trusted cameraman Vern (Will Arnett).
But adults may wonder what the point is of rebooting the franchise for a younger generation when the animated series is still popular on television and the movie focuses so much more on Fox's hot bod than the funny and sweet relationship between the four Renaissance-named brothers. Sure, there's just enough about the Turtles to get that Mikey's the one who's got a crush on April and Donnie's the smart one who can hack or fix or engineer any piece of electronics, but there's no real soul in this installment. Still, the action scenes are cool enough, and the Turtles' movements are fun to watch. And maybe that's enough. But a "totally tubular" reboot this isn't, and it's sad how much of it relies on April being a babe.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. Do you think you have to watch the show or be familiar with the comics to fully appreciate the movie? What are some comparisons?
Who's the movie's intended audience? Is it today's kids (and, if so, what age group?) or grown-ups who were kids when the toys were first popular in the '80s?
Why are April's body and attractiveness mentioned so frequently? Is it funny or unnecessary? Is April more than her looks?
If you aren't familiar with the TV show or the comics, does the movie make you want to check them out?
- In theaters: August 8, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: December 16, 2014
- Cast: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner
- Director: Jonathan Liebesman
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Superheroes, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character Strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sci-fi action violence
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.