‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ are charming, witty

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Cowabunga! The four mutated heroes on a half shell are back to deliver more justice, generate more action and wisecrack more one-liners.

In this sequel to the rebooted series opener, these motion capture turtles face new mutant enemies with surprisingly low-tech machinery, imaginative gadgets and ingenious sight gags.

Teenage-Mutant-Ninja-Turtles-Out-of-the-Shadows-21-600x937Although we hear this sequel is better than the series reboot (2014), this is our first experience with these pizza-eating crime fighters. We never watched them as Saturday morning cartoons, in the earlier movies or later TV series. We suspect we didn’t miss that much, but appreciate why a certain fan base might enjoy these witty reptiles.

Like any good team, each individual has his own distinct personality and charm. There are Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), called Mikey; Donatello (Jeremy Howard), called Donny; Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), called Leo; and Raphael (Alan Ritchson), called simply Raph. Their brotherly chemistry and witty banter hold your attention and make the story fun.

Unfortunately, the human characters might as well be cardboard cutouts. Megan Fox gains top billing as the Turtles’ primary contact, April O’Neal. She immediately dons the naughty schoolgirl outfit and poses for the camera in place of uttering anything coherent. It seems at this stage of her career, she needs to move past that.

Award winning actress Laura Linney co-stars as New York City Police Chief Rebecca Vincent. She never seems comfortable or confident in her role. She asks “What are you, superheroes?” Raph coolly responds, “Just four brothers who hate bullies, and love this city!” Leo asks, “What time is it, Donnie?” Donnie proclaims, “It’s Turtle time!”

Unfortunately, the immensely talented Tyler Perry, as the geeky scientist Dr. Baxter Stockman, is an embarrassment as he pretends to be a geek or nerd or both. Funnyman Will Arnett is not so funny as newsman Vern Fenwick, and TV action star Stephen Amell (“Arrow”) is credible as he gives it his all, but doesn’t have much material to work with.

Producer Michael “Boom-Boom” Bay delivers his usual dazzling pyrotechnics while director David Green (“Earth to Echo”) does his best to keep the action moving and the kids entertained. Children are now desensitized enough that, in spite of the incessant mayhem, the kids in the theater audience laughed loud and cheered often.

As the Turtles had rounded up the evil Shredder (Brian Tee) last time, this sequel begins with mad Dr. Stockman freeing Shredder and his foolish henchmen, Bebob (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly) from captivity. Their goal is to take over the world; but the Turtles must also confront an even greater foe, the notorious Krang (voice of Brad Garrett), who looks like gooey intestines inside an enormous robot.

Director Green was a huge Turtles fan from childhood, as he used to dress up as Donatello. He creates as serious and intense a story as in most action thrillers, but the Turtles keep this one light, charming and entertaining. Maybe next time, we need less narrative and more Turtles. These sewer dwellers live under the city, so the sets are dark, but that somehow provides a better backdrop when all the gadgets light up.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” is 112 minutes and rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence. This is a silly movie that plays more like a colorful action cartoon. With all the high tech gadgets in today’s movies, it’s refreshing to see the heroes drive a souped-up garbage truck flinging manhole covers at the bad guys.

To buy into these characters, you need to believe the principal trait of a Turtle is “speed, stealth and precision.” Then it makes sense when the newsman pleads, “Why aren’t we going with the Turtles? When something bad happens, you want to be with the Turtles!” If you can’t make that leap of logic, then you need to watch a business tycoon hovering, whooshing and soaring in a suit made of iron.

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Ron & Leigh Martel