As Ninja Turtle mania spread like wildfire throughout Middle America in the late 80’s, New Line Cinema had a simple but brilliant idea: Bring the turtles to life in a movie. As I was too young to see the film when it premiered in 1990 (I was only a year old), I had to settle with a VHS copy. Well, in the span of my childhood I put that tape through the grinder. While I’m aware that TMNT is a flawed movie, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a lot of fun.
The main problem that comic book aficionados had with the cartoon version of the Ninja Turtles was that it was too slapstick. They liked the humor, but felt that the violent edge of the original graphic novel was lost. Luckily for everyone, the TMNT film combines the best of both worlds. The turtles are still reciting their goofy jokes (“You gotta know what a crumpet is to understand cricket”), but they’re ready to kick ass and take names while they’re at it.
So, the Ninja Turtles are still crime fighting heroes, and they still confront the evil Shredder. There’s Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello… as well as Splinter, their giant rat mentor. It’s a classic good versus evil yarn, and I really don’t see a problem recommending it to kids as young as six or seven. There’s a little cursing (I remember thinking it was the coolest thing when Raphael said “damn”) and some stylized violence, but you’re not going to get Game of Thrones type content here.
The fight scenes are pretty cool though, Raphael’s battle with the Foot soldiers on the roof of an apartment building deserving special mention. The soundtrack is also surprisingly good, with Turtle Power tapping into that cheesy 80’s hip hop, and Shredder’s Suite being a legitimately thrilling piece of music. A shout out must go to Jim Henson, as this was the last project he worked on before his death, and the actual turtle costumes look amazingly expressive and vibrant.