Every day Robert Saucedo shines a spotlight on a movie either so bad it’s good or just downright terrible. Today: Turtles in a half-shell!
You can tell a lot about a man by which Saturday morning cartoons he watched as a boy.
The action heavy, toy peddling cartoons of the ‘80s and the zany, quasi-undecipherable Japanese-imported cartoons of the ‘00s have brought out two very different generations of youth.
While their temperament (and likelihood of growing up to be total pussies — I won’t tell you which generation is more prone) are vastly different, there is one thing every man feels about his Saturday morning cartoons regardless of what decade he may have watched them in: A fierce protectiveness.
And all this for what? Your childhood Saturday morning cartoons sucked.
From G.I. Joe to Transformers to My Little Pony, the cartoons that so many of today’s adults fondly look back on are completely terrible.
Unfortunately, with a famine of new and creative ideas plaguing Hollywood, many of the summer’s biggest blockbusters have their roots in the small screen — specifically between commercials for sugary cereal and cheap plastic toys.
And so, as filmmakers attempt to breathe life into decades-old cartoons that smell of mothballs dipped in nostalgia, there exists a legion of mouse-clicking, forum-dwelling cyber-Morlocks who are all-to-ready to cry foul at the first signs of source material infidelity.
This phenomenon was never so obvious then in the months leading up to the release of the first Transformers movie.
As pictures of the film’s giant robots began to surface online, mothers across the nation dropped their cookie sheets, frightened by the moaning that wafted up from their basements where their adult children, ripe from an all-night Call of Duty gaming marathon, began to type fervent blogs of protest — all accusing Michael Bay of raping their childhood because he added flames onto Optimus Prime.
The truth of the matter, though, is that nobody should have given a Jean-Claude Van Damme if the robot had a “Big Daddy” Roth-esque makeover or if Bumblebee was no longer a Volkswagen.
In the end, it’s not as if Michael Bay was adapting Shakespeare. He was directing the theatrical version of a glorified toy commercial.
Last summer, before the release of G.I Joe, I had the misfortune of reading an online comment from a fan responding to a quote from Sienna Miller.
Miller, a star of last summer’s big screen adaptation of G.I. Joe, described the movie as being pure, dumb action. The fan, in a flurry of capital letters and exclamation points, cited this quote as proof that the filmmakers were idiots who did not grasp the source material.
I guess I better strap on my dunce hat because I can’t remember the cartoon, which featured a character named Sgt. Slaughter, as being anything but pure, dumb action fluff.
Even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a show I admit to being a big fan of when I was younger, is hardly watchable in retrospect.
And so, as Hollywood in its attempt to squeeze the pulp from already dry franchises, continues to produce big-screen versions of ‘80s cartoons, fans should be happy that truly talented individuals such as Steven Spielberg and the Wachowski brothers are the ones updating and adapting.
And if fans are lucky, the childhood cartoons that they are so fond of may be re-released on DVD in conjunction with the new movies’ release.
Just don’t get any tears on your Trapper Keeper when you rewatch the old cartoons and realize exactly how bad they really were.
Bad Movie of the Week — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Last month was the twentieth anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. At the time of its release the highest grossing independent movie ever, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a film that, while excessively silly and groan-worthy at times, holds up surprisingly better then I would have imagined.
Based on the ‘80s comic book-turned-world wide phenomenon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — for those who have lived under a rock for the last 25 years — is about a group of four, well, teenage mutant ninja turtles.
Living under the sewer and emerging only to fight crime and eat pizza, the turtles’ anthropomorphic nature is the result of mutagen being exposed the reptiles while they were babies. The brothers are led by a giant Asian-stereotype infused rat named Splinter — himself also exposed to the mysterious green ooze that apparently has the power to turn animals into a furry’s wet dream.
When Raphael, the ninja turtle with an attitude problem and an accent straight out of a Spike Lee movie, rescues enterprising reporter April O’Neil (played by Judith Hoag), he and his brothers are sucked into a larger criminal plot involving a gang of ninja thieves led by Shredder — an old enemy of Splinter who has apparently turned gay and taken to wearing a spike-enhanced version of Liberace’s wardrobe.
Shredder is a modern-day Fagin — offering the disenfranchised youth of New York City an awesome underground hangout full of arcade games, cigarettes and (I’m sure) more promiscuous sex then a West Alabama truck stop. All the kids are expected to do is steal, steal, steal.
In a pretty amusing opening prologue, Shredder’s gang of ninjas (dubbed the Foot Clan) take to the streets of New York — using their supernatural agility and stealth to rip off wallets, TVs and Walkmen.
Thankfully, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are on the case — if they can take the time to stop spouting off some of the worst cringe-worthy early ‘90s slang to be collected in one movie since Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
The suits used to bring the Ninja Turtles to life are pretty impressive — even by today’s standards. Mixtures of costume, puppetry and animatronics, the suits were designed by Jim Henson’s creature shop.
Watching the movie twenty years later, you can’t help but marvel at the ingenuity of the effects — especially considering that if the movie was made today the Turtles would be entirely computer-generated (not that the recent CGI TMNT animated movie was that bad).
Besides Hoag, the other headlining human actor in the movie is Elias Koteas — the man would go on to fight Christopher Walken in The Prophecy. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Koteas plays Casey Jones, a parody of the dark and gritty vigilantes that had overtaken comic books during the ‘80s.
Also look for an appearance by future Iron Man 2 star Sam Rockwell as the head thug in Shredder’s army of hooligans.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was recently released on Blu-ray and the movie looks fantastic considering it’s 20 years old. This, combined with how relatively well the movie’s plot has aged, makes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a good example of a childhood movie that stands the test of time.
I am fully prepared to admit, though, that this may just be the nostalgia speaking. Today’s generation of kids could watch it and think the film is complete and utter garbage. But today’s kids watch Ben 10 so what the hell do they know?
Robert Saucedo thinks your kids’ childhood sucks even more. Follow him on Twitter @robsaucedo2500.
Robert Saucedo is an avid movie watcher with seriously poor sleeping habits. The Mikey from Life cereal of film fans, Robert will watch just about anything — good, bad or ugly. He has written about film for newspapers, radio and online for the last 10 years. This has taken a toll on his sanity — of that you can be sure. Follow him on Twitter at @robsaucedo2500.