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Refuge Reviews-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle: Out of the Shadows (from here on out referred to as TMNT 2) is a colorful and fun action romp for fans of the classic cartoon show, but non-fans may not get as into it.

This sequel to the 2014 reboot from producer Michael Bay is better in just about every way with a greater emphasis on our favorite turtles in the half shell and better villains. The first one took almost half the movie to introduce the Turtles in the flesh (or is that scales?) keeping the focus on Megan Fox's intrepid reporter April O'Neil. Not this time! The Turtles are introduced immediately and dominate the film with their silly antics and their relationships as brothers. And I could not be happier as all four of the Turtles get their chance to shine: Leonardo (blue) is the leader and struggles with trusting his brothers because of their differences; Michelangelo (orange) is the party dude who loves pizza but yearns to be a part of the humans world; Donatello (purple) is the nerd-y tech wizard who builds all their fun gear; and Raphael (red) is angst-y and always fighting with Leo for leadership of the team. The four brothers deal with acceptance in this film  as they discover they might be able to become normal humans and thus have to decide to change or stay as they are. This plot point becomes a good message for kids that family sticks together and you shouldn't have to change to be accepted by society. A positive message in a Michael Bay-produced film? Unexpected, but in a good way.

While the Turtles are well represented, what about the villains? Well, if you are a fan of the classic 80's cartoon show then you will be happy to hear that main Turtles nemesis, The Shredder returns with a new boss, the diabolical Commander Krang, who is a alien brain warlord from Dimension X! If that sounds weird to you then wait for the next part! Shredder needs to bring the alien to Earth by finding artifacts around the world to build a teleporter and to do THAT, he needs "errand boys." So he uses purple ooze to transform two witless thugs into a giant warthog and a rhino, Bebop and Rocksteady, respectively. I was very excited going into the movie to see these two, who were such a big part of the old cartoon, but leaving the movie they might have been the weakest part of it. The two constantly spout off childish, crude humor like fart jokes and butt slapping that are clearly aimed at very young kids or those who like lowest common-denominater humor. On the human side, none of the actors get to do much, including fan favorite Casey Jones (played by Arrow's Stephen Amell). He only wears the iconic hockey mask once and the rest of the film he plays second fiddle to the Turtles but without the fun of the previous incarnations of the character. Its not the actor's fault but that of the script which tries to cram too much into it to be entirely coherent. April and especially The Shredder get very little to do in this film alongside Laura Linney as a police chief and Tyler Perry as Dr. Baxter Stockmann. This is the Turtle's show and I am okay with that.

The action sequences are all memorable and filled with fun martial arts action and silly banter that you would expect from the Ninja Turtles. One sequence in particular late in the film involving a plane, Bebop and Rocksteady, a tank and a rushing river is definitely the highlight of the entire film. But because it hit that high point already, the final act involving Krang is disappointing in its scope. The Turtles never even meet The Shredder face to face! While the action takes place, the drama between our four Turtles and the ooze takes a backseat and quickly gets resolved in a unsatisfactory way in order to get to the final battle sooner.

Consensus:

TMNT: Out of the Shadows is a enjoyable family friendly action film that is made far more so if you happen to be a fan of the classic cartoon. It is filled to the brim with colorful characters and keeps the focus on the four Turtles as it should, but gives the supporting human characters little to do. There are a number of fun action scenes and even a good message for kids about acceptance. There is a lot to like but the potty humor and unnecessarily complicated plot spoil the fun a bit. Despite its flaws if you are a Turtles fan then you will get a kick out of this film as it has quickly become my second favorite Ninja Turtles film (after the original of course!) I recommend seeing it on the big screen for fans and waiting for the DVD for the rest of you.

Family-Friendliness:

Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence. TMNT: Out of the Shadows is pretty tame overall featuring cartoon-y action and colorful characters. The action is bloodless and nobody dies in this film so parents need not worry about that, but there is a lot of martial arts fighting so keep that in mind when bringing younger children. The humor from Bebop and Rocksteady though is pretty crude with fart jokes and even a scene of one after their transformation, where the pig looks in his pants and then high fives the rhino! Subtle, so it will go over most kids heads but I definitely noticed and was shocked that that made it into a family film! Also like the first TMNT reboot film, Megan Fox's April is still relegated to eye-candy, as she wears revealing outfits even when it makes little sense to do so (like battling ninjas). She is may not be the best female role model but at least she is proactive in the story which is more the some heroines can say. But other then that, this film is largely a fun action film that will keep kid's attentions at the very least. I recommend 10+ for TMNT 2.

Rating: 3.5/5