Smashingly stupid formula in 'Turtles III'

March 23, 1993|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

Some people can't handle fame and the prosperity it brings. They know they're unworthy. So they set about to destroy themselves. I suspect that's what's going on at New Line Cinema, proprietors of a certain cash-cow pop cult franchise. I can just imagine the key executives sitting around the office one morning a year or so ago and I think it went . . . something like this.

"You know, we've really got a gold mine in this Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtle thing! Obviously, we don't deserve such wealth. Let's see how we can screw it up!"

And someone else said, "I know, let's make a Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtle sequel in the form of an Akira Kurasawa film!"

"That's a great idea! Nobody in America except seven film critics and four university professors know anything about Kurasawa and even they don't know that much."

"I like using Japanese medieval politics and warfare as a milieu. ,, Unrecognizable culture, unrecognizable traditions, unrecognizable language, unrecognizable clothes. That's terrific. NOBODY knows anything about medieval Japan! Especially the kids who are our natural audience. Thus by its very concept, we exile our audience."

"But wait," chimed in another executive, "we can do much more. First off, I think we should get the turtle brothers to medieval Japan by the most stupid time-travel scheme anybody has ever thought of. Say, why don't we have the girl, you know, Paige Turco, find a Japanese lantern at a flea market and . . . it's magic! They touch it and off they go. We'll get some really cheesy special effects. It'll really be crummy!"

"Terrific," someone said, "but let's make it really stupid! Let's have everybody . . . start talking English in the middle of the shogun wars!

Now the ideas were flowing! The guys were really being creative! Someone said to get the dreary Elias Koteas into both ends of the story, the modern one and the Japanese one, but not to give him anything to do! Another said it would be neat if the four turtles, as before, were completely unidentifiable as to body, face or personality. And still another chipped in with the idea that the many fights be completely generic and unmemorable.

And so that's the story behind "Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles III."

There was only one problem. In its first weekend, the movie made more than $12 million at the box office and so all the executives were fired.

MOVIE REVIEW

What: "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III."

Starring: Elias Kotea and Paige Turco.

Directed by: Stuart Gillard.

Released by: New Line.

Rated: PG.

Stars: **

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