Hailing Michael Bay’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” as not-the-disaster-that-was-predicted might get the champagne flowing at Paramount Pictures, but it isn’t going to save the reptilian farce from a quick trip to the discount bins at Walmart.
There is one heroic aspect to the movie that should otherwise be quickly forgotten and that’s the full-fledged performance of Megan Fox, who plays the role of reporter April O’Neil, who was the devoted owner, as a child, of four painted turtles (toddlers at the time) named after Renaissance artists. (I assume if she had had box turtles, she would have named them after famous cubists.)
Fox plays a cub reporter trying to climb into the big leagues by persistence alone, a cliche as wide open as a yawn.
The big scoop that falls her way turns out to be a jaw-dropping coincidence, given her scientist father’s former partner of long ago, unbeknownst to even himself, turned her pets into full-grown super turtles, who have been bidding their time in New York’s sewer system waiting for the proper time to ninja their way into our hearts.
For Fox, if there was ever a chance to phone in a performance, this would be it. She looks as terrific as ever, so why bother acting? The script is lame, even for sci-fi. The action sequences are hapless by any standard. The producer and Fox have been openly antagonistic in the past. These are all good reasons to sleepwalk through the role. But Fox, the temptress, resists all the temptations to do so.
Maybe director Jonathan Liebesman deserves some of the credit here. He gets credible performances from Will Arnett (playing cameraman and boyfriend wannabe Vern Fenwick) and William Fitchner (playing villainous scientist Eric Sacks). He also gets a fine cameo from a hefty Whoopie Goldberg (playing news producer Bernadette Thompson).
It is also likely that all these pros would not tolerate Fox just sleepwalking through the movie and this decidedly B movie with the A movie budget is not going to turn heads at any Oscar ceremony.
But Fox has done something she needed to do, which is to guarantee that if she does go the Oscars, as maybe somebody’s date, she can walk the carpet with her head held high.
She did what Hollywood’s finest don’t always do: She showed up on time and when the camera was rolling, she went to work.