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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
1990 - PG - 93 Mins.
Director: Steve Barron
Written By: Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird
Starring: Judith Hoag, Elias Koteas, Josh Pais, Raymond Serra, Jay Patterson
Review by: John Ulmer
   
When I was about two to six years old, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" was the coolest thing. When I was about eight or nine years old, the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" started to die out as fast as they had come. By the time I was twelve, they were gone. The companies stopped marketing the action figures in huge quantities, the television show started to lose everyone's interest. The toys stayed with the kids for a while, until they broke, and then the kids couldn't get any more. Looking back, I realize that we were all duped. "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" are, in a way, the most lousy heroes of all time. They're giant turtles who live in sewers and eat frozen pizza. But hey, during the eighties, what more could you ask for?

I remember them in their little plastic cases from the toy store, and oh how I wanted to buy them. Donatello, Leonardo, Michaelangelo, and Raphael - big, green reptiles who got in some toxic waste and mutated into - here it comes - TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. Actually, maybe it should be Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles. If I recall correctly, the name switched around a few times. But anywho, they started off on the Nintendo game console as one-dimensional little figures that could jump, attack, and eat pizza for health. What a game. Suddenly they became hugely popular . They got their own arcade booths in 7-11 stores, their own marketing products, their own TV show, their own action figures modeled after each other, and even three movies. And the saddest part of it is that the turtles never got paid a dime. If only Superman and Batman were real and could come down from the heavens some day to claim their percentage of mass profit. The world would be a stranger place, that's for sure.

Soon every kid who was a kid owned at least one merchandising item from the "TMNT" franchise, whether it be comics, shirts, toys, games, etc. They were wildly successful, and every kid knew their names and every parent was sick of hearing their names. Eventually the four turtles became so famous that parenting groups jumped on an anti-TMNT bandwagon and rallied to get rid of the turtles, calling them "violent" and "ugly" (of course, this was just because the parents were tired of hearing about the fictional characters from their children). They said that unlike Superman and Batman and Spider-Man, these "heroes" had martial arts weapons and injured people. Tell me, what is the difference between Batman punching and kicking villains, leaving POW! marks on the television screen, as compared to turtles kicking butt? Parents have never understood the times. Just think back to when Jazz was a sin and Rock 'n' Roll was evil.

But those big green turtles were a staple of the eighties and early nineties. I remember everything about that era, and now I may realize what it must have been like when Superman was first released to the general public. You think sixties, you think "Batman." You think seventies...I don't know, you think of something else. And when you think eighties, you think turtles. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

It is now I realize for the first time I haven't even begun to critique the film itself here. Bear with me, people. As a mutant fan-boy of the franchise, I couldn't wait to see the feature film version of my favorite superheroes. The only problem was that I was one of the many children banned by parents from seeing it. So, of course, I stuck to my action heroes (which were now branching off into "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Action Dolls" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles MOVIE Action Dolls with Clothing and Items from the Movie") until I schemed a way to see the film. (I can't really remember how I eventually saw it in the first place.)

It was a major disappointment. Corny, stupid, fast-paced but yet watchable. I thought that the turtles looked good in their green rubber Jim Henson suits, and April looked just like the cartoon character, but the master of the turtles, a giant rat, didn't look so hot. Either did the film. It was as corny as unpopped popcorn and a dull entry in the comic book adaptations area. (For good adaptations see: "Batman" [1989], "X-Men" [2000], "Spider-Man" [2001]...)

As a fan of the series I was disappointed in the film. As a child I watched it simply because I thought I would like it better each time, and I still watch it to this day - why, I do not really know. It has a strange watchable force surrounding it that sucks you in and doesn't let go.

This isn't a very good movie, but in a few senses, the entire franchise wasn't exactly cleverly built, so I guess it got what was coming. Something like Batman or Superman seems to have at least a decent premise, specifically Batman, and perhaps that is why it has stood the test of time so greatly. Looking back, the whole TMNT franchise exists primarily as a cash-in on a well-known videogame. The greedy corporate executives milked the franchise and children for all they were worth. Older now, I realize this isn't so great. But as a child, it is evident that I loved this series, and isn't that the point?

As a kid I loved everything about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Now, I'm not so sure. I still love those green jerks, and everything about them. But at the same time I realize that it's a bittersweet love nonexistent when I was more naive. Sure, I still watch them and smile thinking back, but maybe I'm beginning to understand why they didn't make it past the nineties.

Cowabunga, dudes.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

 
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