Families will ultimately embrace differences to conquer foes in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” from director Dave Green. Picking up after the events of the 2014 film, this sequel follows the mutant, martial arts practicing, pizza-loving turtles as they fight to stop an alien monster from destroying the world, and keep their family from falling to pieces.
Michelangelo (Noel Fischer), Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), and Donatello (Jeremy Howard) follow their ninja code, sticking to the shadows, while having fun like teenagers do. But when their arch nemesis, Shredder (Brian Tee), breaks out of prison with the help of mad scientist Dr. Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) the turtles are soon confronted by an even more powerful adversary: An internal conflict that threatens to tear their family apart, and leave the world vulnerable to an evil alliance between Shredder, Stockman, and a vengeful interdimensional monster.
From the first few minutes, the film’s plot feels toned-down from its predecessor. While the 2014 film aimed at an atmosphere of gritty realism amid a kid-friendly presentation, “Out of the Shadows” takes the story’s aura in the opposite direction. Much of the film feels like it is an animated cartoon rather than a live-action feature, easily hooking the attention of children and drawing in the audience. But what makes this angle successful is the dedication from several members of the cast.
Any scene featuring Tyler Perry as a mad scientist (apparently playing the evil version of physicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson), or Stephen Farrelly and Gary Anthony Williams as a pair of dim-witted mutant henchmen, completely steals the film. The characters are explicitly cartoonish, providing over-the-top, outlandish jokes and actions; it’s obvious that the actors knew how goofy the final film would be and did their best to deliver their parts in a way that would match the overall tone.
However, this presentation, while interesting, is also a double-edged sword; the film is often jarring, lulling audiences to the point of boredom with its overuse of juvenile humor, only to yank attention back by suddenly introducing another character or plot point. This would not be so harmful to the overall movie if the rest of the characters were also “aware” of the cartoon-like nature of the film.
Instead, some of the characters try to play their parts straight, acting like the situation is serious; most unfortunately, the turtles themselves fall victim to this. While they initially act like silly teenagers, as the film progresses they begin to look at one another through lenses of suspicion, wondering where their honor stands. It’s a valiant attempt at character development, but it only manages to destroy a decent amount of their charm and humor.
With over-the-top, cartoonish deliveries, and a cast willing to embrace the film’s silly tone and goofy plot, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” from director Dave Green sets out to tell a message of family and acceptance, while providing entertaining visuals for younger audiences. Although older audiences may grow tired of the film’s juvenile presentation, its ability to mimic the style of the cartoon succeeds on the merit of several performances, despite its overall lack of charm.
My grade: 5 out of 10 stars.
(Timothy Hogg is a copy editor for The Derrick./The News-Herald. He has a minor in film and media studies from Slippery Rock University. Readers may contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)