There’s a “movie” trailer floating around the internet this week for something called Cool Cat Saves The Kids. It’s billed as “the first anti-bullying and kid gun safety movie.” It stars Vivica A. Fox, Erik Estrada, and a shrieking adult in a furry, orange cat costume. It appears to have been filmed in an abandoned apartment by people who have abandoned life on Earth. It's relevant to this review, so take a second, go watch it, then come back and read on. I’ll just wait here…
Ok, so you did that and now you’re filled with the weird pleasure and feeling of freedom that comes when you abandon your ideas about goodness and human competency and realize that everything is meaningless and the world is chaos and that you’ll die soon. It’s the perfect moment for you to almost enjoy the newly rebooted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The story involves a mutagen. Bad corporate people want it in order to develop an antidote for poisons they plan to inflict on the population. (Best line: “Initiating the toxin release procedure!”) Shredder and the Foot Clan are involved. This is a job for the turtles.
But you don’t actually care about the story, and that is either because you are a child and the turtles take you to the land of make-believe where you, too, are a ninja with a rat for a father, or you are an adult between the ages of 20 and 35 for whom the the turtles were a part of childhood fantasy. No matter to which demographic you belong, the baseline pleasure you seek is here. There’s a frantic, somewhat confusing chase down the side of a mountain. It’s fun to look at. There’s big city building destruction, like the sort you find in a Transformers film. It's pretty exciting. And the turtles fall in line to utter various catchphrases and perform tasks appropriate to their character traits. Pizza. Cowabunga. Etcetera.
There is no greater meaning than that, and here it’s by design. This is a non-essential children’s film about anthropomorphic animals, where there is no other agenda than to jumpstart a dormant franchise and reestablish a global brand. No second meaning for adults. No complications. It meets the minimum requirements.
It could be more coherent. It could be funny. It could be smart. It’s none of those things. It could also become something else; it could evolve into a future product, one with characters that appeal to both children and non-nostalgic adults, a franchise that reaches beyond pre-teen desires for awesome, colorful, grape-flavored junk. But, really, has anyone been yearning for that to happen? As it exists, TMNT is competent, loud, confusing, cynical, fast and rough. But it's not damaged or sad. It's not a waking nightmare masquerading as socially responsible message-fun. And that means it's not Cool Cat. Nothing should ever be Cool Cat.