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Turtle Power

Film Review

Oh, the sweet joys of childhood. My childhood, for instance, was full of giant mutated turtles that were ninjas…teenage ones.

That might sound weird, but when you say “TMNT,” as the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated movie is titled, it brings to mind only one thing: “Cowabunga!” (which Microsoft Word still refuses to recognize as a real word).

Those heroes-in-a-half-shell are back, bringing with them a large chunk of childhood memories. A film for old school fans of the "Ninja Turtles" cartoons and movies, as well as the generations that followed them, "TMNT" is exactly what children want from their action movies and 20-something guys have been yearning for since they got too old for Saturday morning cartoons.

Since the last film, Leonardo (blue mask and swords) has been sent off around the world by Splinter (giant rat, sensei) to train to be a better leader. During this time, the turtles have grown apart as a family. Donatello (purple, staff) has lost interest in inventing, Michelangelo (orange, nunchaku) has lost direction and Raphael (red, sai) is, well, as hot-headed and hard to handle as ever. The Shredder, however, is dead as of the end of the second live-action film, so this time the turtles are battling an immortal evil — one who their arch rivals The Foot Clan are on the payroll of.

The first live-action "Turtles" film was underrated for its unexpected depth in plot and character; this film has that, coupled with that campy feeling that only a bunch of turtles named after renaissance painters can create.

It looks better, too: Imagi Animation Studios has done an incredible job making the turtles look stunning both in design and movement. Director Kevin Munroe, who has a clear love for the property, keeps the camera moving almost constantly, making fights and action incredibly fluid. A fight between Raphael and Leonardo in the rain is on par with a PIXAR film.

This is a much darker and grittier turtles film than previous efforts, from fights to family betrayals to an incredibly complex bad guy for movie geared towards a younger audience.

For you parents, “TMNT” is an animated anomaly — serious yet fun, and gorgeously rendered — that’ll keep your kids glued to their seats.

To all of you 20-somethings who used to argue shellfishly (I made a funny) over who got to be Michelangelo in the back yard with your friends, “TMNT” is the nostalgic jolt you’ve been waiting for.

<1b>— Matthew Razak