Cowabunga!

Properly representing the awesome setting of Manhattan and evoking a wave of powerful nostalgia, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a movie tailored to resetting a Saturday morning cartoon’s legacy, presenting a healthy dose of pizza-induced mayhem and an unhealthy dose of CGI action reliant storytelling.

When the task of bringing the heroes in a half shell to a new generation was brought up, Michael Bay, the guru behind reaffirming Transformers’ credibility on the big screen, stepped up to the plate in 2014 as the main producer and now audiences face the advent of a sequel.

If you enjoyed Bay’s retrofitting, the sequel is more action packed, ambitious and overall a better work; Out of the Shadows delights those under the age of 12 with ease just as the film’s director David Green’s animated family sci-fi Earth to Eacho did previously. Older fans that recall the days of Turtles comics, cartoons and vintage video games with adulation though, may not realize this to be the best showcasing of the green teenagers’ true fun and panache.    

The first film presented the icons and lore of comic characters Raphael, Michaelango, Donatello and Leonardo (reduced to their abbreviated nicknames) enthralled by an up to date New York City and so to does the second film, this time poising the emphatic alien Krang as the big bad, aided by repeat antagonist Shredder (Brian Tee) and his mad scientist confidant (Tyler Perry).

Employing the tired avoidance of complete Manhattan collapse and subsequent world destruction plot point, Dr. Baxter played by Perry shows up as a quirky and over the top mad scientist character wanting only historical relevance. The mind behind Madea appears on screen thrust into a world of evil when he is tasked with putting together a world rectifying weapon. In a word he’s goofy. 

While merely presenting the characters is not enough to please the general movie goer, both films, specifically the sophomore effort attempt to flesh out each characterization. Mostly falling short, the spewing of dull one liners takes favor over logical character or plot development.

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Some of the consistent wise-cracks of the orange bandana adorned, hip hop enthused, gold chain clad “Mikey” stick. Comedic flare is attempted by the hover board wielding turtle frequently but not as often as Rocksteady and Bebop played by WWE legend Sheamus and Gary Anthony Williams respectively, who’s sole purpose is visually pleasing and bumbling comical relief. Visually the pair stuns after undergoing their CGI transformations and were a welcome sight but not more welcome than April O Neil played one of the most stunning women alive, Megan Fox. Megan Fox dresses up in a schoolgirl outfit at one point helping out her clique of mutant teenagers (but she really didn’t need to be in a schoolgirl outfit).

Story fixtures such as Casey Jones (Stephen Amell) and comedian Will Arnet felt in the film like somewhat wasted opportunities and a bit haphazardly implemented. While cool to see Casey zipping around on roller skates and crying out from behind his signature hockey mask, behind the costume is not a lot of substance.

The turtles are enhanced with even more pizzazz this time around, benefiting from a previous origin telling but not enough. More beloved than ever before, the updated characters of the turtles are infectious in the film, always designating their individualized personalities. Every and all characters, even multiple Golden Globe winner Laura Linney who plays the NYPD police chief, simply serve their purpose without doing much else but its worth noting humans take a back seat this time to the mutant heroes.

With the “importance of the truth” and the “virtue of being yourself” being the moral arcs of the story, TMNT 2 is a movie of overall positivity. It can feel on screen as if a band of thrown together brothers is battling it out, navigating through a heap of the at times strangely relatable trials and tribulations of teenage life. While avant-garde in appearance, the turtles are indeed human in emotion and teenage in ideals. Paper thin and obvious in exposing these messages, don’t expect to be blown away by the overall phoned in plot and themes though. Pay to go see cool sights like alien turtles skydiving, a bus that shoots manhole covers and a CGI Rhino jamming out to Wreckx-n-Effect’s “Rump Shaker” and Edwin Starr’s “War.”