Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2 stars)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Spirit-sapping sequel to the 2014 reboot, from producer Michael Bay

At best maintaining the meagre standard set by its critically mauled precursor, the heroes in a half-shell are back for a tonally obnoxious, patience-testing second outing. Dave Green (Earth to Echo) replaces Jonathan Liebesman in the director’s chair but, as before, producer Michael Bay’s mucky fingerprints are all over this one, as sexism and soulless set-pieces rule.

Less concerned with proving her journalistic chops this time round, Megan Fox’s April O’Neil is instead trotted out for little more than eye-candy duties. Meanwhile suitors, human and otherwise, compete to rescue her in a sausage fest of a film that quickly finds an excuse to dress the 30-year-old actress as a schoolgirl, and feels out of touch with an era where action heroines are increasingly commonplace.

Addressing an issue of the 2014 original, the Turtles are given more distinguishable personalities as they are re-introduced by the monikers Leon, Raph, Donnie and Mikey (voiced by Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard and Noel Fisher respectively). With April’s former cameraman Vern (Will Arnett, still struggling to rise above the material) having taken credit for their city-saving endeavours, the quartet remain in the shadows but when the incarcerated Shredder (Brian Tee) is loosed, only to team up with an even more formidable foe, their services are once again called upon.

Fans of the comics and cartoons may be intrigued by the film’s take on a new roster of franchise favourites. This time we meet Casey Jones (played by Stephen Amell from TV’s Arrow) and dumb-ass henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady (Gary Anthony Williams and Stephen Farrelly), while supervillain Krang (juicily voiced by Brad Garrett) is looking to bring about the end of the world, despite resembling, ‘a chewed-up piece of gum. With a face!’

This 12A-rated effort falls awkwardly between two stools: it’s too macho for kids, while it lacks the narrative sophistication, ambition and – the estimable Laura Linney aside – casting coups to satisfy teens raised on a diet of Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, the Maze Runner and superior superhero films. And its attempts at knockabout capers wouldn’t be so cringing if it could scrape together a few laughs. Instead, lousy writing – from its predecessor’s screenwriters Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec – scuppers it at every turn.

The anthropomorphised amniotes are well-rendered and energetically voiced and there’s welcome pathos when they are presented with the quandary of whether or not to transition into human form. However, this offers only fleeting respite from the tedium of obese, bloodless action and the story – by turns predictable, incoherent and over-explained – plays as if it has been scavenged from a Marvel skip. With the prospect of another outing grimly mooted by an adversary’s promise to return, let’s pray a third instalment remains but an empty threat.

General release from Mon 30 May.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

  • 2 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 1h 52min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Dave Green
  • Cast: Megan Fox, Stephen Amell, Will Arnett

The turtles return in a pointless, obnoxious, sexist, would-be knockabout but grimly unfunny sequel to the dismal 2014 film. Fox is given little to do except be eye candy and while the turtles are well-rendered and energetically voiced, it's too macho for kids and not grown-up enough for teens raised on the likes of…