As Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tops the box office for a second week in a row, we hate to say it, but a little part of our inner child dies. Between the 'roided out CGI turtles, the inevitable sexploitation of Megan Fox, and turtle lips (that should be enough right there), the new Turtles movie seemed poised to disappoint true fans from the get-go.
Luckily, for those craving anthropomorphic turtles with martial arts skills that hits a little closer to home, Nickelodeon has you covered. The kids network made its own cartoon reboot in 2012 that manages to build upon the original while carving out an expanded, richer turtle-verse. The team at Nickelodeon created a surprisingly smart show with strongly developed characters and on-point nods to pop culture, classical movie genres, and hints of the original cartoon peppered throughout.
Here are five good reasons why your time and money will probably be better-spent at home bingeing on "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" the cartoon, presumably with a large pepperoni and anchovy pizza.
1. Nods to the original cartoon
It's clear the show's producers were wary of the nostalgia trap they were getting into with this project. But it's also clear they were fans of the 1987 series and wisely allowed the new show to build upon the original material, which can be felt in everything from the opening theme music to the Turtle's throwback technology. And while "Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go" doesn't make a cameo, the pizza-throwing Turtle truck, the robotic mousers from the video game, and even Metalhead come back as recurring characters. We're still waiting on word of Vanilla Ice.
2. Familiar faces
As for original characters, many return with stronger backstories and motivations, but they still stay true to their original concepts. Baxter Stockman, for example, remains a meek scientist who eventually goes "Jeff Goldblum" and turns into a man-fly, but we find out why he views himself as evil and puts up with Shredder's abuse rather than just accepting his role as a subordinate.
3. Expanded Turtle-verse
Nickelodeon's Turtles remain true to their oozy origins, but instead of having a monster of the week format as '90s cartoons were prone to do, Nick's reboot has strong character arcs that last multiple seasons. And while protagonists like April O'Neil and Karai get a little more backstory, the fun comes in when the antagonists get their origin stories. The show is chock full of familiar faces like Baxter Stockman, Krang, and, of course, Shredder. Rather than merely establish them as bad guys, Nickelodeon has given them motivations and personalities that actually drive their characters: Shredder and Splinter's rivalry, for example, is deeply explored through the first season and leads into deeper consequences and revelations as the show progresses.
4. Voice acting talent
Sean Astin, a.k.a. Sam from the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Jason Biggs from Orange is the New Black (OK, he was also Jim from American Pie) are featured voices, and Seth Green will be joining the cast. (Where does he find the time?)!
And while the curse of true voice actors is that their names usually aren't as recognizable as their voices, most will remember Rob Paulsen's when they hear him as Donatello. Not only was he the original Raphael, he was also Yakko Warner and Pinky from Animaniacs, another cult classic '90s cartoon.
5. High-level references
The Turtles reboot has its fair share of slapstick humor and, quite frankly, it wouldn't be the Turtles without a little bit of bad puns and pizza-in-the-face gags. But when it gets down to it, it's a smart show. It knows its audience by its references to pop culture and movie genres, without skipping a beat. Leo's favorite show is a Star Trek clone called "Space Heroes," one of the main henchman is a clear Chuck Norris spoof, and Mikey loves old-school horror films and insists on giving every new mutant a campy horror name like Snakeweed.
If you're interested in checking the series out and deciding for yourself which remake truly recaptures your childhood memories, Nick's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is currently available on most on-demand streaming services and is streamed ad-free on Hulu Plus.
John Sykes is a writer for Hulu.com.
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