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Since 2014‘s surprisingly successful reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ live action feature franchise, it’s not exactly a leap to have expected a sequel.  Indeed, when it comes to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, the only surprise is why they didn’t go all in and call it TMNT 2: The Secret of the Ooze?

There’s a certain satisfaction that comes from knowing the whole world owes you a solid.  Having risen from the New York City sewers as a team of sibling ninjas armed with amazing martial arts skills and brotherly teamwork, Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo saved their city from a deadly virus created by an evil scientist with ties to the mysterious Foot Clan.  Sadly for the bros, their appearance as amphibious mutants keeps them from claiming the rightful praise for their victory.  They know the terror caused by their monstrous looks will outweigh any gratitude the populace might feel.  Still, one of the main points of the ninjitsu they’ve been taught by their “father” and sensei, Master Splinter, himself a mutated rat, is stealth and the need to remain “in the shadows.”  Which helps the boys justify their inability to join the rest of the world.  This is not all bad, because their superhuman agility and knowledge of all sorts of secret passages around some of New York’s most famous landmarks makes for some stunning views; whether it’s free-falling off the Chrysler Building, or hovering over the court at Madison Square Garden during a Knicks game.  Even so, it can’t help but chafe when watching the credit for their heroic deeds be taken by a more human-looking friend, who’s made quite a meal of being the Turtles’ straw man.  Still, it’s New York City and with the leads sent by their comrade and buddy, reporter April O'Neil, there’s always some evil to stop somewhere.

After the threat posed in the previous adventure, April is keeping tabs on Baxter Stockman, another shady scientist with suspected ties to the Foot Clan.  Even though the Clan leader, Shredder, is in police custody, that’s no assurance that he’ll stay there, or that Stockman isn’t somehow doing his bidding.  A disastrous prison transport finds the evil ninja escaped and looking for revenge on the amphibious siblings.  For this task, Shredder employs two dimwitted henchmen who really don’t mind becoming a guinea pig - or a guinea rhino - for Stockman’s version of the mutagen that transformed the brothers from simple turtles to super-powered human hybrids.  This would be the Ooze.  Meanwhile, watching it all play out is a powerful dimensional being called Krang, who sees potential in Shredder’s level of badness and employs him in a plot to create a dimensional rift that will allow aliens to help Krang take over the earth.

Leo, Donnie, Raph and Mikey, along with April, fake hero Vern, and a new ally, Casey Jones, the unfortunate corrections officer who let Shredder escape, must go way beyond the familiar confines of New York City and once against test their brotherly bonds in an attack from two dimensions.

Yep, it’s as convoluted as it sounds, yet joyfully goofy in a way that only a live action cartoon can be.  TMTN 2 is possibly even more reverential to the characters we all grew up with, and the affectionate keystones and homages make up for a lot of the story’s loopiness.  There are still high-flying thrills; this time quite literally as the boys must make a leap of faith between two planes at 30,000 feet and then crash land one in the Amazon River, complete with very tall waterfalls.  Good thing the boys are amphibious.

As a sacrifice to all that action, less time is taken on the Turtles as a family together with Master Splinter, which I kind of missed.  The scruffy rat is their glue, and while he is there to counsel Leonardo in his moments of doubt as the brothers’ leader, he really is pretty much absent in this chapter.

Instead we have the long-awaited appearance of Bebop and Rocksteady; two dumb thugs lucky (?!) enough to be taken under Shredder’s wing, as he senses the pair of lunkheads would make not only good enforcers, but excellent test subjects as he wants Baxter Stockman to create a super-strong mutant of his own to help him defeat the Turtles.

Another big addition was the boys’ newest human friend, former corrections officer, Casey Jones.  Not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, after his initial terror that the hard-shelled siblings are going to eat him, Jones becomes a strong and stalwart pal in the race against Shredder’s evil scheme.

Including Krang might have been a little too much for one movie, and his story of opening the dimensional rift and wreaking havoc on the earth was way too much like the Avengers movie plot.  Also, his presence was one of the many ways that the return of Shredder (This time almost entirely without his groovy, pointy hat) was vastly diminished to the point I didn’t really see why the ninja was scary anymore, despite actor Brian Tee’s seething, snarling presence.  However, the crabby alien is a big motivator of upcoming adventures, so there he is.

Besides the kids (and kids-at-heart) in the audience, the ones who seem to be enjoying TMNT 2 the most is its cast.  I was struck by how much shameless scenery-chewing and hilarious ad-libbing Tyler Perry got away with as Baxter Stockman, creator of the Ooze.  It’s the most fun I’ve had watching Perry on screen that didn’t involve him wearing a dress.  I was initially shocked to see the respected, revered actress Laura Linney take a role as the police captain who takes a hard line with Casey Jones and April O’Neil’s suspicious activities.  Like Perry, Linney is playing it huge and having what looks to be an unapologetically grand ol’ time.  So too, Stephen Amell as the hockey-stick wielding Casey Jones, looks chuffed to be part of the Turtles’ mythology.  Having become the brothers’ human surrogate, we have a lot more slapstick hero moments by Will Arnett as Vern, who is making the most of his phony fame.  Megan Fox’s April seems to fade more into the background in the face of so much story and so many new, dynamic players, but she looks amazing, having a Michael Bay-tastic transformation from science geek (Don’t get her started on the difference between “geek” and “nerd”) to barely-legal-looking, Hit Me Baby One More Time nymphet.

This time the computer imagery of the Turtles themselves is pretty seamless.  I was not a fan of their revamped look (I’m still not, really), but the visual effects in this chapter bring the performances of the actors under the virtual turtle suits closer to the surface.  It feels like they have created an ease and simpatico as the team of turtles that improved significantly since the 2014 film.  Noel Fisher’s Mikey continues to be a sweet, goofy, pizza-scarfing hoot, while often the butt of jokes, Alan Ritchson is always a blink away from roid rage as the bulky, combat-loving Raph.  Pete Ploszak’s Leo is still emo and unsure of himself as the team’s leader, while Jeremy Howard has a wispy geekiness as the genius Donnie.  Also better than expected were the renderings of Bebop and Rocksteady, who seemed to have the weight and gravity of their enormous animated characters, though I wish they’d had better dialog.

Besides the higher quotient of silliness that the smallest viewers in the audience will guffaw at, there are a good amount of the snappy laughs that grown-up viewers will appreciate:  From post-modern chuckles like manly-man (turtle?) acrophobe Raph bracing himself for a sky dive with no net and no parachute, by wondering aloud, “What would Vin Diesel do?” To in-jokes like Vanilla Ice popping up on a jukebox a dive bar.  There’s also the delight of the boys’ newest toy, a tricked-out garbage truck transformed into a battle vehicle, including a flying manhole cover launcher and a pair of giant nunchucks that can be operated from inside. (Speaking of things that transform. There’s an unsubtle cameo by another Michael Bay property early in the film)

All in all, TMNT 2: Out of the Shadows is a goofier, hokier version of its predecessor.  It delivers the action and entertainment we look forward to, as well as plenty of laughs and warm affection for the characters we know and love.  It’s a fun time at the movies for the whole family.  I only hope the inevitable threequel will keep those same positive qualities, while not degenerating any further under the weight of enforced silliness.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

June 2nd 2016

 

EXTRAS: Exclusive Photos from TMNT 2's NYC Press Conference, with actors Will Arnett, Stephen Amell, Tyler Perry, Stephen “Seamus” Farrelly, Gary Anthony Williams and Brian Tee.

Our Turtles, Noel Fisher {Michelangelo}, Pete Ploszek {Leonardo}, Jeremy Howard {Donatello}
Director Dave Green, Screenwriters Josh Appelbaum & Andrew Nemec, and Producers Andrew Form & Brad Fuller

 

EXTRA, EXTRA: Exclusive photos from AirBnB's Secret Turtle Lair where lucky visitors can live the Ninja Turtle life for a night.


 

 

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© 2006-2017 The Diva Review.com

 

 

Photos

Exclusive Photos by LMD

Stills Courtesy of  Paramount Pictures


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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