A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 384 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) – March 19th, 2011

When I was young, my brother had a total thing about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He loved them. And when I say he loved them, I think I need to be clear that we’re talking total obsession here. He was about six or seven at the time and he did eventually grow out of it, but for a couple of years there, anything TMNT-related was a safe bet. He drew pictures, focusing on making sure the turtles had plenty of muscles, watched the show, practiced his “ninja” moves in front of the television. And once we were allowed to watch this movie, oh, oh did we watch this movie a lot.

I’ve tried for years to puzzle out my parents’ guidelines to movies and television from when I was a kid. Lots of stuff was barred to me for years, but my brother got more lax rules. Anything remotely sexual in nature was cause for alarm, but violence didn’t get as much scrutiny. Bizarrely, my reading options weren’t curtailed at all, which makes me chuckle now. Anyhow, this movie was one that my mother sort of looked askance at for a while, until my brother and I saw it with the children of a friend of hers during a Christmas party. And well, if her friend was letting her kids watch it and we’d already seen it, might as well let us own it, right? So we got a copy and it became a guaranteed hit for both my brother and myself. There was a time when we knew it by heart and could recite it at will. My mother wasn’t thrilled with the smoking and violence and all, but for the length of the movie and a little bit after it, my brother and I would be in accord, only arguing over who was better: Michaelangelo or Donatello (I am and always have been a Donatello fan, as he is the geek and I am a geek girl).

After watching the newer animated movie a little while back, I mentioned wanting to get this one. I had fond memories of it from my childhood even though it had been years since I’d seen it. So we grabbed a copy and tonight when we needed something familiar and fun we popped it in. And I am pleased to report that while it does indeed have flaws, it’s still a lot of fun and I still know way more of the lines than I should after all this time. The exchange Michaelangelo and Donatello have when Leonardo and Raphael start fighting? “Fight? Fight. Kitchen? Kitchen. Pork rind? Pork rind.” For some reason that tickled us a lot and we repeated it all the time and I still knew it now. Have I said it in the past ten years? The past fifteen, even? Nope. Maybe it’s that I’ve seen this movie so many times. Or maybe it’s just that it’s got some fun writing that’s easy to remember. Lots of little quotable lines and memorable moments.

It’s not a complicated movie, despite the bizarre basis. Or perhaps that’s because of it. When you’re asking your audience to get on board with mutated turtles who are named after Renaissance artists, who talk like surfers and who eat pizza before kicking ass with ninjitsu moves and weapons? Well, that’s about as much as you’re going to ask. Plot complexity is not a priority here. We meet the turtles, find out a little bit of their personalities (Raphael is the angsty one, Michaelangelo is the goofball, Donatello is the dork and Leonardo is the steady one), get some quick plot exposition courtesy of main character April O’Neil, who happens to be a reporter, and off we go. There’s a rash of theft and burglary spreading across New York City, no one knows what’s going on, April’s trying to get to the bottom of it but is meeting some stiff resistance from her boss and the city’s chief of police.

Without getting bogged down in the finer details, there’s a gang led by the main TMNT villain, Shredder, recruiting teenagers as their new soldiers in New York. Shredder has some history with the turtles’ teacher, Splinter (giant mutated rat who taught them martial arts) and April gets wrapped up in it all, rescued by the turtles and then they all run away to her family’s farm outside of town. Because while the main focus of this movie is the turtles saying stuff like “radical” and “awesome” and talking about pizza and then fighting, there’s also a very hammer-licious plot about the importance of family, so the movie takes a time out midway through to have all the turtles think on the subject. The pacing is a little bizarre, to be honest, but the comedic interactions between the turtles, April and their newly acquired friend, Casey Jones, keep things going.

My love for this movie could totally be nostalgia, I admit. Watching it tonight it was easier to see the flaws. As a kid I do recall noting a few times where the turtles’ shells were obviously foam or rubber, I just didn’t care. And seeing the flaws tonight I found I still didn’t care. We even saw one of the most obvious and bizarrely uncovered visible film crew moments in any movie we own (he’s not even trying to hide – April just seems to have a man in an orange hat crouched by her table for no reason and no one cares!) and it just endeared this movie to me more than before. On the other hand, having a lot more knowledge of movie costumes and special effects, prosthetics and make up and action blocking, movies in general, I found a lot more to appreciate as well. Flaws aside, the turtle costumes are fantastic and it’s a lot of fun to see them in action. The tone of the movie is also fascinating to me. It’s an action movie, with serious bits, but also tosses in comedic sound cues and somehow it all works. Nostalgia, maybe. I don’t really care.

March 19, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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