Saturday, February 7, 2015

Review: Original Teenage Mutanta Ninja Turtles Film is Still Fun

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 7 (of 2015) by Leroy Douresseaux

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
Running time:  93 minutes (1 hour, 33 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Steve Barron
WRITERS:  Todd W. Langen and  Bobby Herbeck; from a story by Bobby Herbeck (based on characters created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird)
PRODUCERS:  David Chan, Kim Dawson, and Simon Fields
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  John Fenner (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  William D. Gordean, Sally Menke, and James R. Symons
COMPOSER:  John Du Prez


Starring:  Judith Hoag, Elias Koteas, Jay Patterson, Michael Turney, Raymond Serra, Sam Rockwell, James Saito, Toshishiro Obata, David Forman, Leif Tilden, Michelan Sisti, and the voices of Corey Feldman, Josh Pais, Brian Tochi, Robbie Rist, David McCharen, Michael McConnohie, and Kevin Clash

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a 1990 martial arts fantasy and action-comedy film from director Steve Barron.  The film is based on the media franchise, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (also known as the “Ninja Turtles” or by the abbreviation, “TMNT”), which began with a black and white comic book created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird and first published in 1984.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the film focuses on a quartet of anthropomorphic ninja turtles and a TV news reporter, as they battle a ninja criminal gang.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles opens in New York City (late 80s or early 90s).  The city is in the midst of a crime wave of pick-pockets, burglaries, and general thievery.  Rumors abound that the thieves are mostly young children and teenagers, perhaps connected to something called the “Foot Clan,” which apparently originated in Japan.  This is according to April O'Neil (Judith Hoag), a television news reporter at station WTRL – Channel 3.

In fact, O'Neil comes across some of these very same thieves ransacking a news van, and they promptly attack her.  A mysterious band of warrior rescues April, introducing her to a world under the streets and in the sewers of the city.  April's rescuers are four anthropomorphic turtles; these mutated, man-turtles walk and talk, and, like other teenagers, they love pizza.  They are also ninja warriors, according to their mentor and surrogate father, Splinter (Kevin Clash), a mutated, anthropomorphic rat who is also a master of the ninja arts.

Now, April and these four teenaged mutant ninja turtles:  Raphael (Josh Pais), Michelangelo (Robbie Rist), Donatello (Corey Feldman) and Leonardo (Brian Tochi) unite to unravel the secrets of the city's crime wave.  Street vigilante, Casey Jones (Elias Koteas), joins them, but will all of them be enough to stop The Foot and its leader, The Shredder.

1990s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the first movie in a franchise that would yield a total of three films.  Years later, Warner Bros. Pictures would release a computer-animated TMNT film, also entitled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2007), which I still have not seen.  In fact, I had not seen a TMNT movie since the second film, which was released in 1991.

With the release of Paramount Picture's reboot of the franchise, also entitled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, earlier this past summer (2014), I decided to revisit the 1990 film.  I vaguely remember liking it then.  I was surprised to find that I actually liked it after recently watching it again.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1990 is quaint, but irresistibly cute and likeable.  Everything about is 1980s cheesy:  the sets, the clothes, the music, the attitude, and the Turtles' dialogue.  It's as if every teen movie, good or bad, was strained of its slang and lingo to create the dialogue for these teenage mutant ninja turtles.  The entire movie also looks like it was shot in the ghostly, abandoned sets of 1980s break-dancing movies.

Still, if you like the Ninja Turtles, it is hard not to like this movie.  Back in 1990, I did like the Ninja Turtles, so I liked their hit movie debut.  A quarter-century later, I find that I still like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1990.  I might even find myself watching it again.

5 of 10

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

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