If one thing can be said in favour of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, it’s that it doesn’t have delusions of grandeur. Right from the zany opening in which the four anthropomorphic reptiles speed across Manhattan to catch a New York Knicks game (stopping on the way for pizza, of course), it’s clear that Out of the Shadows has no intention of taking itself in the least bit serious. It may be commendable that everybody involved with the production of this sequel to the 2014 reboot understands just how ridiculous and corny a film they’re making but this self-awareness can only get the film so far. Once the childlike giddiness and healthy dose of nostalgia for anyone that grew up on the Ninja Turtles wears off, you’re left with the cinematic equivalent of that obnoxious kid at the back of the classroom that is consistently spouting off stupid comments and jokes. And while you may tolerant them for a while eventually you just want them to be quiet.
Though it has the marketing and production budget of a Hollywood blockbuster, Out of the Shadows most closely resembles a trashy B-movie. The tone is often so juvenile that it borders on parody. Some of the one liners and puns are so painfully bad they need to be heard to be believed. The turtle’s quips are often so cheesy they manage to even give Arnie a run for his money! Though it’d be easy to argue away the film’s childish tone as a by-product of Out of the Shadows being aimed at the family market, truthfully much of the tone just comes across as poorly written.
Narratively, the film is obsessed with convenient plot devices and flimsy logic. From tracking down enemies using a sample of purple ooze to security guards who are lured away from their post for the most asinine reasons, it’s fair to say Out of the Shadows is positively brimming with plot holes and illogical sequences. While this is at first distracting, around the thirty minute mark it becomes strangely liberating. The movie isn’t bound by convention and once you accept this and just go along for the ride, it all becomes rather hilarious granted though, it often feels like you’re laughing at the movie rather than along with it.
The four brothers—Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) and Raphael (Alan Ritchson)—generally blend in with the New York landscape well. In a few scenes it’s a bit too obvious that Megan Fox, returning as reporter April O’Neil, is interacting with computer generated creations, but they’re largely impressive creatures. The individual personalities of each turtle once again shines through, though Michelangelo’s comic relief shtick is relied upon a little too heavily. The themes of brotherhood and working together is a typical element of Ninja Turtles media and it’s featured prominently here. Even if it’s shoved down the audience’s throat with all the subtlety of a freight train, it still largely works as far as moral messages go.
There’s plenty of action and large scale mayhem on display in Out of the Shadows, more than its predecessor in fact. Director Dave Green keep things generally tight and thrilling; although towards the end of the movie, the Michael Bay quick cuts start to rear their ugly head. The best moments of the movie come when the four turtles are working together to take down a large scale foe. These moment are even better when they feature the anthropomorphic rhino and warthog duo Rocksteady and Bebop, both of whom are insanely idiotic yet great fun.
Fans of the original comic series and animated television show voiced a large displeasure at how many characters from the franchise were omitted in the 2014 original, and that mistake is corrected here. Not only do Bebop and Rocksteady feature heavily Krang (Brad Garrett) has been added as well. Though the talking brain is only briefly featured throughout the movie, he’s a much better villain than this adaptation’s steely and dull take on the iconic Shredder (Brian Tee). The first major action sequence of the movie sees Shredder being broken out of police custody, but after that he just seems to stand around giving orders and not really doing much himself.
Ultimately though, Out of the Shadows is so desperate to please long time franchise fans that it overcorrects on the mistakes from the last time round adding in an overabundance of new characters. There’s even more fan service to behold as both Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) and Casey Jones (Stephen Amell) are thrown into the mix. Neither Stockman nor Jones is given suitable enough screen time or enough narrative substance to warrant their inclusion. They feel like pointless universe building for a franchise that is far from assured to continue past this second entry. Cutting these two characters could have allowed the film to be twenty or so minutes shorter, which would have greatly improved the pacing as Out of the Shadows chugs towards the end.
Megan Fox’s return is hallmarked with a scene of her walking slowly through Grand Central Station in a tight miniskirt, which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about her role in the film. April O’Neil is a genuinely strong female character in the Ninja Turtles canon so to see her reduced to essentially eye candy, again, is disheartening. Will Arnett is also back from the previous movie but is solely relegated to comic relief, which Mikey has plenty covered already. Out of the Shadows shoehorns into both new and returning characters at almost every junction, cutting the cast in half would have probably done the film wonders.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is an undeniably stupid movie. Between the often direct-to-DVD quality script and a plot with so many holes in it you could drain spaghetti through the thing, it’s impossible to take seriously for even a moment. There’s certainly fun to be had in just going with the flow of asinine ridiculousness, but at a certain point you start to yearn for something with a little more substance and a little less cheese.