Ninja turtles rehash familiar action

112 min. | PG-13

There’s not a lick of wit to be found in the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film—unless you think spitballs and farts are amusing. Shadows is downright leaden, though it obviously believes there’s humor in its loud, chaotic juvenility. It would be an insult to cartoons to call this cartoonish.

The film embraces hoary clichés: the brothers fit the stereotypes of the leader, the muscle, the brains and the goofball, and they also argue about how one-dimensional they are. Most tedious of all are the overdone sci-fi action shenanigans. Shadows steals bits of story, visuals and sometimes entire sequences from the likes of Ghostbusters, Independence Day, Avengers and The Dark Knight. And not in an amusing way.

It’s tough to know at whom this movie is aimed. It’s too long, confusing and inappropriate for children when it sexes up the human sidekick, poor Megan Fox. Yet its plot—an alien wants to take over Earth—plays like the script was written by an eight-year-old. The anthromophorized turtles, with minds of doofy adolescents, bodies of adult human bodybuilders and faces of reptiles (all CGI) seems like a child’s idea of what being a grownup is like: pizza parties and hanging out in your cool hidden clubhouse. When you’re not fighting aliens with your ninja powers, of course.

Some things just don’t even make sense, like the opening scene, when the turtles scale the Chrysler Building so they can then jump off it (like, for fun?). Or when the movie detours into a tangent for a joke that isn’t funny, during a sequence in which time is of the essence. Then there’s the bizarre soundtrack: classic-rock tunes pop up and fade in and out for no reason.

And there’s the bewildering presence of Laura Linney as a dour law-enforcement officer and stick-in-the-mud foil to the fun-loving turtles. I will be lighting a candle for Linney, and praying that her paycheck was a very large one.