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The Uncut Release We've Been Waiting For!,
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This review is from: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles Forever [DVD]  (DVD)
Speaking as a US-based Mutant Turtles fan, it was an absolute travesty that the single greatest all-inclusive testament to 25 years of TMNT mania was treated to such a shoddy DVD release on our home shore. Scenes originally cut for commercials not being restored and lopping off 7 minutes of footage, non-anamorphic widescreen leaving a garish black ring on widescreen monitors, and to top it off, a box cover comprised entirely of standardized stock art when a number of beautiful poster-quality pieces were already produced specifically for the film. No longer is that the case with this remarkable release.
For the film itself, it is a marvel in and of itself. As stated, it's greatness lies in its embrace of all aspects of the turtles' lineage, from both TV series down to the very roots of their origins in comics and everything in between. The plot is an action-packed ride from start to finish, tying together many ideas from the different shows in surprisingly satisfying ways, and providing an overall sense of fun and adventure. In a very real sense, it acts at a bookend to three major factions of the series, closing one era under Mirage as another under Nickelodeon is poised to begin.
If there's any flaw to be found, however, it's in the scapegoats made of the original 1988 turtles. I don't know if the writers have any personal love for the first series' turtles or even ever watched the original show, but either way, they couldn't let any nostalgic value override the "superiority" of their own 2003 brood. Incessant laughter at their own jokes, noogies being their primary form of communication, obliviousness and ineptitude in all but a few battles are what dominate the 4Kids writers' views of the admittedly lighter-hearted turtle teens. In some ways, there was no escaping the boiling down of the '88 turtles to their core concepts to make their contrast to the newer, sharper turtles more apparent. But their attempts come across as so heavy-handed that you'd think Peter Laird's not-so-secret distaste of the original series was reveling in the chance to show them up.
Not only that, but none of the original cast return to their roles. No, the 4Kids turtles are still the same, but other 4Kids stand-bys are all called in to take a swing at filling the roles of '88, with varying degrees of success. If you've always wanted to hear Yami Yugi voicing Leonardo or Chip from Sonic Unleashed voicing Donatello, your wishes have been granted. Sebastian Arcelus provides the closest performance as Raphael, whose one-liners sound nearly identical to Rob Paulson's more than once, but I don't even know what to make of Michelangelo, who sounds fine one minute and Johnny Castro-ated the next. The other characters from '88 fair better in sound and personality: Shredder and Krang's shenanigans, along with those of long-missed Bebop and Rocksteady, ring quite true (save for a mention of a ludicrous "giggle ray") and work as a wonderful and much more natural contrast to the fiercer Shredder we've come to fear in the 2k3 toon. '88 April is sadly treated as little more than a throwaway gag, in stark contrast to 2k3 April's meatier role, but her short screen time is still pretty true to her character, or at least her voice. And while '88 Splinter's time is just as short, it's absolutely pitch-perfect in all aspects.
If they get something unequivocally right, it's the look of the original show painstakingly recreated in all its Saturday morning glory, especially apparent in the scenes taking place in the universe of said show. Needless to say, they also provide the same level of detail to the 2k3 universe's version of New York, as well as a third locale that I shall remain mum on (though some may have guessed). The animation, while not Disney quality by a long shot, matches and sometimes surpasses both TV shows in both fluidity and overall scope of awesomeness.
In short, whatever it's flaws, Turtles Forever is the quintessential testament to Turtles past and present. The remarkable effort and love (maybe uneven love, but love all the same!) that was put into this piece of TMNT glory must be commended and celebrated, especially now that it's available the way it was meant to be: completely uncut, truly widescreen, and beautifully boxed. Anyone who calls themselves a Turtles' fan no longer has just cause to ignore this release. And I won't take differing region codes for an answer!