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June 14, 2012

Midnight Movie of the Week #128 - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

It's likely that every generation looks back on their childhood and thinks the things they once loved are still awesome. If they don't, they probably should.  Heck, we're at our best when we're kids. We have no idea that there's responsibility in our futures, and all we really care about is getting home from school so we can watch cartoons and play with our toys. It's humanity at its most perfect. 

Back on point - while most generations believe they had it great "back in the day", I'm relatively convinced that those of us who learned about life from the late '80s and early '90s got a pretty fantastic hand dealt to us. And a lot of credit for that - alongside powerhouses like the Transformers and G.I. Joe - goes to four fantastic turtles that provided countless entertainment to us all.  They are, of course, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - and when they came to the big screen it was pretty much the greatest thing a nine year old could ever ask for.  And we showed up in numbers to see it too, making it the highest grossing independent film ever at the time of release (passing the record set twelve years earlier by Halloween).
22 years later, a lot of things have changed.  The toys are naturally gone - although I think there might be a Leonardo somewhere in my closet - and the animated series is just a distant memory.  I do still have some memories of the first two video games for the NES - as should I, Turtles II was an arcade blasty - and I do still crave pizza pretty much all the time.  But one thing that hasn't changed is that that 1990 live-action film still makes me smile like a madman.
With music video director Steve Barron behind the camera and plenty of product placement - not to mention the underlying fact that the movie is designed to primarily sell toys - the fact that this movie was designed to manipulate us kids can't be hidden.  But we didn't care then, and today I still don't. The film still works as a stand alone story, only briefly covering how these turtles became mutant ninja teenagers, and still packs a ton of entertainment value for folks of all ages.
The simplest key to the film's lasting charm is the fact that the characters are still so fun to watch.  The foursome of Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Raphael are brought to life in glorious rubber suits - polished with Turtle Wax, of course - and a talented voice cast - including Brian "Takashi from Revenge of the Nerds" Tochi as Leo and the undeniably awesome Corey Feldman as Donatello - which should endear them to most viewers.  Also becoming human are intrepid reporter and Turtle ally April O'Neil (played by Judith Hoag, who was very "1990 hot" to a nine year old) and the sporting-goods-as-weapons loving Casey Jones.
Jones, as played by future veteran character actor Elias Koteas, is probably the film's shining star to me, and his first appearance in his hockey mask still has me longing for more of the character.  (Considering their choice of facial wear, isn't Casey vs. Jason something that could happen? I'd watch that.)  Koteas gives Casey a bit of a late '80s edge - there are some times when his lack of tact and his vocal tones remind of Keanu Reeves' work from this time frame - which adds perfectly to the film's place in pop culture history.  The turtles needed a human adversary in their live action world, and Casey Jones fits that purpose.
It's probably one of the most PG films I'll ever cover here at the site, and its sci-fi and horror elements (including a reference to the Critters films, which Raphael dismisses as junk) are minimal.  But there's too much fun to be had with a group of ninja turtles that fight a gang of ninjas that are corrupting America's youth, and the folks behind this vision of the comic heroes/cartoon stars capitalized on all of it.  I'm still sold on these righteous turtles, and won't shy away from lauding this film as a great piece of escapist adventure.


Hey! Look Behind You! said...

Our childhood will weep when the remake comes out.

DrunkethWizerd said...

This movie is depressing as shit! I love it.