Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

DVD Cover (New Line Studios)
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Overall Rating 71%
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Ranked #1,613
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Through contact with a mysterious ooze, four turtles in the sewers of New York mutate into intelligent pizza-loving humanoids, and are mentored in the art of ninja combat by the wise rat Splinter. When the evil Shredder attempts to take over the world, the turtles set out to stop him. --IMDb
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Review by Crispy
Added: May 19, 2007
I'm sure all of us remember the Ninja Turtle craze in the late 80s. I know I personally watched the show religiously and had close to fifty action figures. Naturally, the movie was inevitable and in my opinion, it more than measured up.

The movie begins with a news report about the massive wave of theft sweeping the city. This crime spree has been leaving the police stumped not only for it's sheer immensity, but also for the high skill level of stealth that the thieves are using. After the shoot, the reporter, the infamous April O'Neil of course (Judith Hoag), is mugged on the way to her van, but is saved by a group of unseen warriors. We soon find out these warriors are the Ninja Turtles, four mutated, five foot tall, walking, talking turtles. They've been trained in the art of ninjitsu by their master, a rat from Japan who has also been transformed, with the hopes of bringing some decency back to the city. While their master is much more of your standard, wise, ninja sensei role, the turtles are wisecracking teenagers, more concerned with partying and pizza. They befriend April, who has deduced that the recent increase in burglaries is being caused by an ancient Japanese ninja crime ring called The Foot. When The Foot kidnap their mentor, the four turtles find themselves dependent on April and a vigilante crime fighter named Casey Jones (played by Elias Koteas) to bring order to the streets of New York and save their master.

Now for those of you who have never seen this movie, I'm sure at this point you're sitting there going "What in the hell?" And when you spell out the plot like that, I have to agree. But the way it's played out, it works a lot better than you would think and once you get past the fact that you're dealing with mutant turtles as your heroes, the plot is actually not that difficult to digest. And It's very easy to get around that due to the emotional performances given. While they certainly won't have you reaching for the tissues, they're convincing enough to get your suspension of disbelief in gear. Even their interaction amongst themselves works towards this as each one has a distinctive personality and they're constantly arguing, like common siblings do. Now, this is obviously a movie primarily aimed at children, but the general tone is uncharacteristically dark for a kid's movie. Most movies of this type use some form of outlandish fighting, usually Matrix-esque walking-on-air type styles, to destroy any semblance of reality. But although some of the techniques here have somewhat of a cartoony feel to them (for example, two turtles rolled up into a ball and "bowling" over their enemies), the two sides mostly stay on the ground using swords and axes and what would appears to the untrained eye as a legitimate form of martial arts. The turtles themselves are all very nicely done as well, being completely done with guys in costumes, no CGI shenanigans to be found. It's amazing how often guys in suits and puppeteer work looks so much better than CGI work, but I digress.

If four humanoid turtles isn't gonna bother you, there's actually not too much to detract from the movie as a whole. In fact, it's more a collection of little things than any one glaring problem. For instance, Casey Jones, while the character worked out decent enough once he was part of the thing, he never really got too much back story to explain where he came from or even what he was doing. He literally just shows up and starts smacking the bad guys with a hockey stick. Another thing that could possibly be annoying is their constant use of surfer/stoner exclamations. While at times it can be somewhat funny, especially with the one turtle who can't quite get it right ("BOSSANOVA!" *all look at him*...."Bossanova?" "Uh...Chevy Nova?") by the end it's started to get pretty damn annoying.

At it's heart, this movie is basically your standard, cheesy martial arts film. Small number of heroes versus an overwhelming number of villains, all of which are dropped with no problem at all until the head villain is fought. And despite nearing that twenty year mark, it still looks pretty good, both in the cultural scene within the movie and special effect wise. While I truly doubt anyone above the age of 18 hasn't seen this, it's definitely worth a look if you haven't. 9/10.
bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added May 20, 2007 at 1:35pm
I grew up on "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" -- the action figures, the films -- all of it. I remember seeing this film in theatres when it was first released, and I saw the second and third ones in theatres also. A perfect blend of action, comedy and drama. The puppetry was very impressive, the performances from Elias Koteas and Judith Hoag were also well-rounded and believable. I love this film even still, but loved it even more when I was eight. 9/10.
Edd #2: Edd - added May 20, 2007 at 5:22pm
It's just not a TMNT film without guys dressed up in big foam rubber suits. 10/10
Rik #3: Rik - added July 3, 2008 at 12:05pm
One of the best films of my youth.
Rest Easy Soul #4: Rest Easy Soul - added January 24, 2010 at 8:17pm
Agreed with Rik, easily among the top films from my youth. One of the first movies I would watch everyday and one of the first movies I heard cussing..
Lucid Dreams #5: Lucid Dreams - added July 17, 2010 at 3:27pm
I loved the show and had the figures as well Chris. I loved this movie and felt like they did a great job, but like meanie said I enjoyed it more when I was younger. However, I will still give it what it deserves. 10/10
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