Just saw TMNT this morning at a 10:30 AM Saturday morning preview, an indication that Warner Bros. is marketing this movie directly at the tween crowd, eschewing the more lucrative teen and young adult male audience in the process. That's a shame, because the film could have found a wider audience among those fans of the original series, (who could presumably share their love of the turtles with their kids) if it had been a little smarter for the adults and less confusing for the kids.

If you know the original series at all, it won't be too confusing, it roughly follows the continuity of the other three movies and the animated series. The four ninja turtles, created by radiation, trained by a ninja rat, and named for famous renaissance painters (as we are soberly told by narrator Laurence Fishburne) team up with reporter turned adventuress April O'Neil and masked vigilante Casey Jones to stop (or help) a 3,000 year old warrior from collecting thirteen monsters and conquering the world. The thirteen monsters are there to sell more toys, as are the Gargoyle-like stone generals. The Foot Clan, the army of the long dead Shredder, a villain dispatched in the last Turtles film, is on hand, and are forced by circumstances to team up with the turtles. Actually, I guess the film is kind of confusing...

The leader of the foot clan is voiced by Ziyi Zhang and April is voiced by Sarah Michelle Gellar. They are portrayed in the 3D animation as ultra hot Bratz dolls, which works, given the actresses involved. Patrick Stewart does the role that would have been Sean Connery's five years ago as the ancient warrior up to no good. The late great Mako does a wonderful job as Splinter, the rat who trained and became a father to the ninja turtles. Mako, no stranger to animation or to humor, is the voice of the demon Aku on Samurai Jack, and in his long life has contributed mightily to the kind of entertainment I love, portraying a string of memorable characters on the series Kung Fu, as well as tons of other movies. He will be missed. For some reason Kevin Smith does a turn as a diner cook.

The 3D animation is really good. It's no Pixar, but it revels in action and captures the frantic energy of the turtles perfectly. Ultimately it's a testament to how good it is when you lose yourself in the characters, and the characters are done well. Occasionally the shots get so fancy that we lose track of the action, but the fight in the rain between two characters (who I won't name, sorry, no spoilers) is great, emotional, and real. It's swords versus sais, and since sais were developed to break swords... suffice it to say that this is the best sequence in the film, and really captures the essence of the Ninja Turtles.

I read a review (probably the Boston Globe, but who can remember?) that called 300 "action porn." The reviewer meant it derisively but I found myself quite taken with the term. TMNT is action porn for the tween set, which sounds wrong, but I'll stand by it. It's great fun, talks about issues relevant to kids, and revels in the physicality of heroism in a positive way. If you were expecting more than that from a movie about radioactive turtles check out Gamera.