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February 7, 2011

Film Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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Written by: AHudson
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Title: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Director: Steve Barron
Writers: Bobby Herbeck and Todd W. Langen (created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird)
Distributed By: New Line Cinema
Starring: Corey Feldman, Judith Hoag, Elias Koteas, Kevin Clash
Release Date: March 30th, 1990

Crime has risen to an all time high in New York City when the Foot Clan, headed by Shredder (James Saito), brainwashes the city’s kids to steal and train to be ninjas. But their plans are soon nixed when a bunch of teenage turtles, Leonardo (David Forman/Brian Tochi), Raphael (Josh Pais), Donatello (Leif Tilden/Corey Feldman), and Michelangelo (Michelan Sisti/Robbie Rist) come to the rescue. But things get personal when their rat mentor Splinter (Kevin Clash) gets kidnapped by the Foot Clan. Aided by news babe April O’ Neil (Judith Hoag) and ex-hockey player Casey Jones (Elias Koteas), the tubular foursome go to finish Shredder once and for all.

[Note: Before anyone asks, this isn’t a cartoon movie. Rather, it’s a movie based on a cartoon based on a comic. So there.]

Let’s all be honest here. Most of your opinions have already been decided on this film before you even watch (or re-watched) this. For some, it’s a great film that takes you back to a more innocent time. For others, it’s a terrible film that’s only liked for its nostalgia.

Personally, I can go either way with 80s/90s films. I usually enjoy a childhood film as it is and give it the benefit of the doubt (as with most films). But I do realize when a “classic” isn’t so golden anymore. *cough*3 Ninjas *cough*

Fortunately, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stands the test of time. Yup, it’s still good.

The nice part about TMNT is that nostalgia only plays a small part in its charm. If you were not born in the 80s, you can still enjoy it. Of course, if you grew up in the very late 80s or early to mid 90s, your appreciation for the film may deepen. I couldn’t help but have a big grin on my face the moment Raphael threw his Sai at the street light.

Typical reaction to the title screen

Aside from the awesome 90s vibe going on, it didn’t hurt that it also had some decent writing. There isn’t any deep philosophy or any emotionally gripping scenes. But it’s well plotted, even if the plot itself is far fetched. It sets up the story fast, but makes sure everything’s explained in the process. It’s also able to balance everything from moving to different scenes; juggling action, comedy, and “drama”; and even throw in a few sub-plots without crunching everything down.

The dialog is cheesy, a bit too much at times, but it does the job and it’s not too bad all things considered. More importantly is that it has actors that can pull it off. No mind blowing performances here, but both the bodies and the voices of the quartet capture the essence of the turtles just right.

If you say "pizza" enough times, mutant turtles will chill at your crib.

I admit, I hated how April O’Neil screamed all the damn time. But with that being said, I still liked Hoag’s portrayal. The rest of the cast, such as Clash (Splinter) and Koteas (Casey Jones), kept the spirit of the cartoons while adhering to the fact that it’s a live action film.

Still would've been hotter with a jumpsuit instead of Doc Brown's future coat.

The Passion of the Splinter

Of course, what would a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film be without some action in it? I’m surprised at how well choreographed the fighting scenes are, despite the fact that the stunt crew were in those turtle suits. The fight scene in April’s apartment is not just my favorite action sequence of the film, but one of my all time favorites. Ninjas falling from the skylights, nun-chuck competition, story collapse, balls to the wall kind of fight.

My only annoyance with the fights is sometimes they’ll pull a move that you know was written only to appeal to small kids (the Achilles’s heel of the later films). Also, I was a little disappointed with the end fight with Shredder. Don’t get me wrong, I love how it was Splinter who took him out in the end. But when the bar was raised in the previous fights, you have to go all out for a final fight (especially after all that training footage).

The power of mariju-I mean meditation

Even the lesser details hold up. The special effects haven’t aged bad at all (of course, not having explosions or CGI doesn’t hurt). The turtles’ facial motions are amazing, even if the lip syncing is not timed well. The sets are great, splashed in 90s neon and faux urban. I even loved the music, so bad and yet so good. Sure it didn’t have the theme song, but it still took the best of the show’s music and mixed it up with some old school hip-hop.

I know what the main criticisms are, and yes it’s true. It’s cheesy, it’s childish, it’s far from perfect. The plot of ninjas brainwashing children and combating mutated turtles is the most ridiculous idea ever created.

Fact: Ninjas steal everything from VCRs to Presidents

But who cares?

This film was written for children who watched the film, not academy award viewers. What did you expect, Shakespeare? It’s like (the film) Mortal Kombat. You know what you’re getting into, it is what it is, you get what you pay for.

It's 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?

Even though it’s not a perfect film, it has proven itself worthy over the past twenty years. It’s awesome! Tubular! Radical! It makes you want to jump up and say…


Ha-ha! I made a funny.

Andrew Hudson



  1. Billy

    I remember going to see this flick back in the day. Of course, I think by that time I was beginning a phase of borderline alcoholism. I have good memories of it though. ­čśÇ

  2. I just remember chompin’ at the bit every time I saw one of these trailers and tried to get my hand on every bit of info about the movie that I could. The movie was great for what it was but like you I was let down by the final fight after all the others had been pretty damn cool considering the costumes.

    I remember one lady snatched her kid out of the movie because Raph said “DAAAMMMNNN!” lol she screamed that they didn’t curse on the cartoon! lol

  3. Kristin

    I still get a kick out of this film. The puppetry for the turtles was pretty amazing.

  4. Andrew Hudson

    Yeah the turtles did cuss in the film. Although it was PG film so she should’ve been prepared for that. It’s sort of ironic that the fighting was O.K for her but not any light profanity. Of course, this was the era of the 80’s to early 90’s. When good PG films (The Goonies, Back to the Future, The Karate Kid) could have a little profanity, violence, and action. Nowadays it seems like PG films (unless they’re “serious” family flicks) are simply a rating given for live action G films. But anyways, more on that topic later.

  5. That poor kid cried his heart out and begged her to let him stay. The best was when he said “He (raph) won’t say bad words again mommy I promise!” Seconds later Raph lets out another “damn” and it was a wrap for that kid’s TMNT experience lol

  6. BPS

    Not one mention of Sam Rockwell?

  7. Seriously, this is on of my favorite movies of all time.

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