Those angst-ridden, ass-kicking avengers with attitude are back in action, dudes. More than a decade after their last big-screen outing, the Turtles return to do what they do best — fight evil, chomp pizza and raise a bit of shell. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles began life as a joke, yet went on to become one of the biggest pop culture franchises of the 80s and 90s. What started as a one-off superhero parody spawned a series of comic books, three live action films and several Saturday morning cartoons — along with bucketloads of toys, clothes, videogames, duvet-covers and other miscellaneous merchandise.

TMNTThis kickstart to the franchise — in brilliant CGI — is set some time after the three live-action films. Their mortal enemy, Foot Clan leader Shredder, is dead and sibling rivalry has seen the team split up and go their separate ways. Leonardo is in South America, where Splinter has sent him to train and become a better leader; Donatello works on a computer support phoneline; Michalangelo entertains at kids’ parties wearing a fake “turtle” suit; and Raphael has become a crime-fighting vigilante, The NIghtwatcher. But the guys are forced to team up again when industrialist Max Winters (voiced by Stewart) threatens the city by raising up an army of ancient monsters. With their old allies April O’Neill (Gellar) and Casey Jones (Evans) by their sides, the Turtles not only have to deal with these nasty new monsters, but also with their old foes, the Foot clan, now led by Karai (Zhang).

To be honest, I haven’t seen a reinvention like this since Batman Begins. Gone is the dumbing down of the Saturday morning cartoons. Back comes some of the darkness, angst and humour of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s original creation. There’s genuine warmth, depth to all the characters (although Donatello and Michaelangelo don’t get an awful lot to do), good-natured humour and enough action to teach Bryan Singer a thing or two about making an action film. And the CGI? Well, this mob could give the lovely folk over a Pixar a run for their money. There’s a scene halfway through the movie where it starts raining; the water, when it hits the characters, acts just as you’d expect water to act in the real world. Until now, I had never seen CGI that good. TMNT brings us back the Turtles as they were meant to be. And it’s great to have those little green dudes back.

EXTRAS **** A pizzaload, including the anchovies. There's a commentary with writer/director Kevin Munroe, an alternate opening and ending, deleted scenes, early test sequences, interviews with the voice cast, and a lot more.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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