The Ballad of April O’Neil – Review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Friend Lauren and I went to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles today, and it was a whole lot better that I was thinking it would be. With a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes, I was expecting Lucy levels of terrible (which, hilariously, got a 66%).

It must be said that I enjoy Michael Bay. Since Bad Boys, the Michael Bay name does more to sell me on a movie than it could ever deter me, although I did have to bored-quit Pain and Gain. I just couldn’t, hard as I tried.

A lot of other reviewers are bitching about the changes to the storyline. Do they mean the changes from the comic, the 1980s TV show, the 1990s movies, early millennial cartoon, 2012 animated series, or the manga? Anybody who lays a claim on the Ninja Turtles better be a reader of the original comic and no other iteration, or they’re going to look pretty silly.

The changes they made this time are a little heavy-handed, but I don’t mind. This entire franchise is aimed at children. Wild coincidences come with the territory. As do fart jokes, with this movie also has.

I was pleasantly surprised with April O’Neil. I have to say that I can’t remember anything about her from the 80s cartoon, except that I hated her. It could have been as simple as the fact that her jumpsuit is yellow, my least favorite color.

And, as much as I love the action movie stylings of Michael Bay and his ilk, I have to say that lady characters in summer blockbusters tend to have one universal rule: The less screentime the better. They’re either screaming to be rescued, or getting eye-raped by the camera.

Surprisingly, April only deals with one of these issues. She is frequently an object of the male gaze, but she at least gets to express some small feminist outrage over not being taken seriously, although it seems to be for the distinctly unfeminist reason that she’s too pretty to be a real reporter. Not, for example, that the misogynistic, heteronormative old boys club feels strongly that women aren’t capable of hard-nosed reporting. Adding to the argument that her real struggle is one of being too attractive, her no-nonsense boss is played by Whoopi Goldberg, one woman of color to prove all your feminist and racist arguments are for shit.

At no point does April come across as a helpless victim. If anything, she appears to be more than a little bit stupid, but extremely well meaning. The fact that she seems to have no actual friends does make me a little sad. Her roommate is afraid of her, and her sidekick thinks she’s crazy and only hangs out with her because he wants to fuck her.

Will Arnett, who plays the sidekick in question, is basically phoning it in, but there’s not a lot more anybody could have done with that role. His entire motivation as a character seems to be April O’Neil’s ass.

As for the turtles, they are awesome. Character design is amazing.


The bother interaction is awesome, as is the animation. It’s worth the ticket price just to see them swing, jump, and skate around New York. Not to mention the combo chase/fight scene that is the show-piece of the whole film.

There are also some pretty great jokes, which I loved.

The plot is more than a little bit crap. It makes absolutely no sense, even the five year old who was non-stop kicking my chair realized who the (should have been a surprise) bad guy was right off the bat. At least, it seemed that way when he shouted “He’s evil!” in my ear.

The worst part of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were the children. In addition to the junior can-can dancer behind me, there was an entire family sitting beside us who decided that their infant really needed to experience the joy of CGI. The baby babbling along happily wasn’t actually that bad. The toddler chattering constantly through the whole thing and shouting over the baby did make it hard to hear the dialog on the screen.

On the bright side, it gave me implicit permission to talk to Lauren on and off throughout the movie. Because if your kid is shouting, I’m going to make fun of the dialog. And the plot.