Directed by: Kevin Munroe
Premise: An animated revival of the comic book franchise. The four Ninja Turtles must redefine their relationship as a family while defending the city of New York against an invasion of monsters from another universe.
What Works: This new incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is surprisingly solid. Rather than completely restarting the franchise, this Turtles film follows the events of the first two live action films, and the screenwriters have carefully assembled this story, taking the relationships of the four brothers seriously and crafting a story around it. The main conflict within the family revolves around a power struggle between Raphael (voice of Nolan North) and Leonardo (voice of James Arnold Taylor) for leadership of their foursome. This conflict is well done and sells the relational centered storyline by adding depth and weight to the film. The animation in TMNT is incredible, as it maintains an animated look but possesses texture, detail, and depth that surpasses even The Incredibles, especially in a prolonged fight between Raphael and Leonardo. As an animated feature, it is nice is to see a film that does not rely on cuteness or pop culture references to pass for substance. The story and its environment are fairly gritty and real and as a result the film does not insult the intelligence of children or adults.
What Doesn’t: The opening back-story of the monsters and the mystery surrounding them is very convoluted and the audience will find themselves playing catch up through the first half of the film. Although the story between Raphael and Leonardo is very interesting and dramatically satisfying, Michelangelo and Donatello are left to the periphery of the story, which undermines the theme of family unity that the story is driving toward. Some Turtle purists might be turned off by the discrepancies between the previous live action films and this one, such as the Turtle’s living quarters and the status of the Foot Clan.
Bottom Line: TMNT is a surprisingly good film. It actually surpasses the previous installments in the quality of the story and the Turtles universe seems to work better in the animated form than it did in live action. This film is strongly recommended for fans of the Turtles and for fans of computer animated films like Monster House and The Incredibles.
Episode: #135 (April 1, 2007)