Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

(In French, On TV, August 2017) It’s hard to see rubber-suited people playing ninja turtles without feeling as if the last exit for goofiness was about fifty miles behind, but sometimes that’s the entire point. The 1990 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles embraces its nuttiness and doesn’t really care if everyone thinks it’s silly. A comedy more than anything else, it doesn’t aspire to higher pretensions than entertaining the kids. Sure, it may look silly, but it’s well-executed silliness, with just enough conviction to sidestep the worst accusations of cookie-cutter filmmaking. The turtles themselves come from the Jim Henson Creature Shop, one of the best in the business at the time. As far as human characters are concerned, Judith Hoag is cute enough as reporter April O’Neil. Ironically, the two more modern adaptations of the franchise may only help to bolster the profile of the first film in the series—this one is goofy and it knows it, whereas the subsequent ones often lose their ways in trying to present an action spectacle. I was probably five years too old back in 1990 to get into the Turtles and I’m faaar too old now, so it’s not as if I have any sentimental attachment to the characters. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sometimes degenerates in a generic martial-art noise—the characters are too similar, the darkly lit sets are dull and the fights feel as if they could come from any similar film—but, periodically, it has just the right amount of humour to make itself interesting again. Considering the intentionally ludicrous source material, it’s about as good as anyone could have hoped for.

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