Four pizza-loving turtles emerge from their shells to battle crime in this inexplicably successful kiddie flick, which now looks as dated as it is silly. It's likely to leave today's kids shell-shocked and amazed that it could make so much green when it was first released in 1990.
Back then, the hottest stars in the world were Raphael, Donatello, Michaelangelo, and Leonardo. No, not the great artists of Renaissance Italy, but four domestic turtles transformed by toxic waste into walking, talking, ninjitsu-trained amphibians with a passion for pizza (without anchovies) and surfer-speak.
Based on the cult comic book by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the idea is little more than an excuse for some shameless marketing. Transformed in the sewers of New York by some mysterious green ooze, the turtles are trained by their Zen mentor - a life-sized rat - and dispatched to help vigilante Casey Jones (Elias Koteas) and TV reporter April O'Neil (Judith Hoag) fight a teenage crime wave started by evil villain Shredder (James Saito) and his martial arts henchmen.
One of the first examples of videogame filmmaking - in which the plot has all the episodic redundancy of the levels of a PlayStation game - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles struggles to offer anything other than a series of bloodless martial arts sequences. And even these are strung together with little regard for the finer points of dramatic structure. Fortunately, the screenwriters didn't spoil the foursome's colourful surfer catchphrases - "Totally tubular dude" - which helps keep the amphibious heroes from becoming as bland as the storyline.
Re-released uncut by the BBFC (which has agreed to restore a couple of minutes worth of previously-snipped nunchuka fighting), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is dominated by one question: just how did this ropey old CGI-less movie full of blokes in shellsuits ever convince a whole generation of children to part with their pocket money, never mind spawning two sequels and the catchphrase 'cowabunga'?