Why Terrible Reviews Can’t Stop These ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie opening this weekend. If the rampant Pizza Hut commercials, or cases of Orange Crush, or even the new toy lines and the many, many commercials airing at all hours of the day haven’t informed you of the new film, you most certainly live in a cave. A cave with internet.

But even as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shell-shocks box offices this weekend with a projected $65 million dollar opening, critics are blasting the film as one of the year’s worst, with Rotten Tomatoes currently scoring the film at 19 percent rotten. With an insipid script, horrible dialogue, and acting that would make high school productions seem like a masterclass in the craft. In fact, Salon called the film “an extremely stupid movie.” The only thing done right in this production are the turtles themselves, who critics, like Kirk Baird of The Toledo Blade, explain: “The turtles look great, move gracefully on screen, and exhibit character and reptilian charm.”

How can a movie with such terrible reviews still make so much money? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t one of those properties that people see because it’s so bad. Nor is it a guilty pleasure film like the Transformers franchise–which is directed by Turtles producer Michael Bay. Are there that many parents out there who don’t care enough what their kids see to drag them to a movie that, even at 8-years old, may be beneath them?

It has to be nostalgia.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been around since 1984 when Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, two struggling comic artists, sat down one night and sketched out what would become a worldwide phenomenon within six short years. The first live action Turtles film in 1990 made $185 million dollars. The cartoon series and Playmates toy line helped drive the property and kids of all ages spouted words like “cowabunga” as they practiced martial arts with each other in backyards.

As the property cooled for over a decade, mostly due to market saturation, 2007 saw a new all-CGI animated TMNT feature, and the turtles began staging a comeback of sorts. Nickelodeon commissioned a new cartoon series, blending elements of the old cartoon, new CGI and manga–which has been a hit for the network. This resurgence led Michael Bay to step in with his Platinum Dunes production company and create another live action film, starring Megan Fox as reporter April O’Neil, and Will Fichtner as Eric Sacks, a millionaire industrialist with a shadow partner bent on destroying New York. The turtles themselves were to be redesigned and completely computer generated, and now the new film is upon us.

And now the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are back, and though the movie is a critical stinker, its inexplicable box office success–coupled with the cartoon series and toy lines–means that maybe the turtles are back for good. And all those nostalgic-influenced fans who grew up with the turtles, many of which are now parents introducing their kids to the beloved characters, can look forward to more “Turtle Power” in the future. I just hope that the next time out the movie is worthy of the name Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.