I'm not going to complain that a film bearing the Nickelodeon Movies logo - the kiddie channel production company responsible for Harriet the Spy, Rugrats Go Wild, and The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie - features a grim scene of New Yorkers lined up at gunpoint on a subway platform, threatened with execution. Those sage souls who sit on the Motion Picture Association of America's ratings board gave Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a PG-13, so the 6-year-olds in the audience have been duly warned.
After all, four giant genetically altered reptiles are going to come barreling down the tracks any minute now, wielding their samurai swords, their nunchuks, and a few not-so-snappy one-liners, to save the day.
An uninspired reboot of the jokey '90s film franchise, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a dark, shaky, standard-issue superhero pic - the kind of cliched, misfit crimefighters-versus-demented villains scenario that Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird happily parodied when they came up with the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic books way back in the 1980s. The production values and computer imaging may not be up there in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 league (and the 3-D effects certainly aren't), but the Times Square battle zones, the thumping face-offs, the evil corporate masterminds are virtually interchangeable.
What does set this Jonathan Liebesman-directed dud apart is that, along with the usual business about a quartet of adolescent, anthropomorphic tortoises schooled in martial arts by a talking rat, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a tale of intrepid journalism. Like All the President's Men, the film shows how a dogged reporter can make a difference, toppling deranged kingpins with a notepad (and a smartphone).