There are a lot of problems with Jonathan Liebesman’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but it’s just entertaining enough and that’s in large part due to the title characters who, for some reason, aren’t the stars of the film. Rather than run with what made the original movies so special and put the focus on the brotherhood and dynamics of their relationship, we get a movie about April O’Neil’s aspiration to become a hard news reporter.
Thanks to the fact that Megan Fox and Will Arnett are two of the most famous names in the film, the four guys responsible for the heart of it, the Turtles, aren’t even getting a fraction of the amount of recognition they deserve, so this edition of Unsung Hero goes to Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard and Pete Ploszek. Hit the jump for more.
Who They Are:
Alan Ritchson grew up in Niceville, Florida and kicked off his career in front of the camera by doing some modeling work for Abercrombie and Fitch. (You probably could have guessed that just by looking at him.)
Noel Fisher is from Vancouver, B.C. where his parents encouraged him to give a variety of performance art a go. On top of acting, Fisher studied dance, piano, art and even did some circus training, too.
Jeremy Howard has been active in the industry since 1992, but there isn’t much information out there on him besides his Wikipedia breakdown, which merely highlights that he’s 33-years-old, was born in Burbank, California and is the son of actor Joe Howard.
Pete Ploszek lived in Illinois before making the move to the East Coast to play football at Princeton University after which he got an MFA in acting from USC.
Where You’ve Seen Them:
Ritchson was actually one of the top 87 contestants on the third season of American Idol. You can check out his audition right here – even though he might not want you to. After that it was off to scripted TV to play Arthur Curry (aka Aquaman) in Smallville after which he picked up a handful of one-off parts on other shows and led the cast of Blue Mountain State during its three-season run on Spike TV. In fact, there was a Kickstarter campaign for a Blue Mountain State movie that reached its goal, so he should be jumping into shooting that soon. On the film front, Ritchson had a minor role in Fired Up!, but it’s far more likely you caught him in one of the biggest releases of 2013, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
Fisher’s very first gig was a TV movie called The Sheldon Kennedy Story and his work in that actually snagged him a Gemini nomination. From there, Fisher started racking up the TV credits including short runs on shows like The Outer Limits, Two and a Half Men, Huff, Medium and The Riches. However, more recently, Fisher joined the cast of Shameless where he’s now completed four seasons as Mickey Milkovich. Even though he didn’t have all that much screen time, his portrayal of Vladimir in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 got him quite a bit of attention and he also had a supporting role in another Jonathan Liebesman film, 2011’s Battle Los Angeles. And just for fun, who remembers Fisher’s Final Destination 2 finale?
Howard’s first credit is a TV movie called Crash Landing: The Rescue of Flight 232. A little later on, he appeared in Galaxy Quest alongside Justin Long and got small roles in Men in Black II, Catch Me If You Can and is credited as “Dead Nerd” in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And of course, who could forget Howard’s portrayal of the kid who had a thing for blowing stuff up with his mind in Accepted? You can check out a clip of him in that one right here.
Ploszek is the newcomer of the bunch. So far, he’s only got four credits to his name, a short film called Outage: WME (which you can watch by clicking here), a single episode of Parks and Recreation, another on Shameless and then Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Why They’re Great in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
Ritchson plays Raphael, the hotheaded brute of the bunch. Considering that rift between Leonardo and Raph is super thin and Raphael’s big speech at the end kind of comes out of nowhere, it’s highly likely that Ritchson shot far more material than what we get in the final cut, but he still manages to make the character work. In fact, that grand finale monologue shouldn’t work at all because the plot points prior don’t justify it whatsoever, but because Ritchson’s delivery is so strong, he still gets it to mean something.
Fisher is the best part of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Michelangelo’s crush on April O’Neil is definitely beaten to death, but again, that seems to have a lot more to do with writing/editing decisions than Fisher’s contribution. The whole “my shell’s getting tighter” thing might be too much for some, but no matter what dialogue Fisher is given, he manages to nail the intonation and timing to make it work well. Fisher also rocks the laid back, fun-loving swagger to match. For instance, part of the reason the whole “we’ll find you” gag is so funny isn’t because the joke is genius on paper, but rather because of the way Fisher delivers the line paired with the appropriate body movements.
Howard’s Donatello is easily one of the most well defined Turtles of the bunch, and it’s not just because he’s got more prominent gear as part of his look. Donatello’s glasses and headset could have been too much, but Howard delivers the appropriate voice work, posture and personality to support it. I still question whether or not pumping someone full of adrenaline could reverse the affects of major blood loss, but Howard still sells Donatello as a convincing tech geek with knowhow that makes him a vital member of the team.
Ploszek got shafted. His first big role in a wide release and not only do you never see his face on screen, but you don’t even get his voice either. The poor guy’s dialogue for Leonardo is dubbed by Johnny Knoxville, and it’s actually a major flaw in the film. Having never heard Ploszek’s original delivery, I’m in no place to say whether or not the character really needed the voice swap, but that doesn’t mean Knoxville is right for the part. The familiarity of Knoxville’s voice and the fact that it in no way conveys “fearless leader” absolutely takes away from what Ploszek achieves through his physical performance.
Overall, it’s just a shame that these guys aren’t getting more attention because they really did quite a bit of the heavy lifting. As Fisher told us a couple of weeks ago, those weren’t just grey jump suits they had on the entire shoot. They had to perform with two HD cameras right in their faces while lugging a shell with a battery attached to it. It just can’t be easy walking around with all of that, let alone adjusting your gait to make it character appropriate.
Where You Can See Them Next:
Ritchson has that crowd-funded Blue Mountain State movie coming up as well as a comedy called The Wedding Ringer, which stars Josh Gad as a groom-to-be who turns to Best Man, Inc. to help find him a best man for his wedding. It looks like Ritchson is also interested in doing some work behind the camera because he just finished producing a short film called Mojito and, according to IMDb, is getting a writing and producing credit on Blue Mountain State, too.
Fisher doesn’t have any movies in development or in pre-production right now, but Shameless is due to return for a fifth season next year.
Howard doesn’t have anything on the way either, but this is a guy who’s worked steadily since 1992, so there’s no doubt he’ll be adding credits to his resume soon.
Ploszek is in the same position. He doesn’t have anything coming up according to his IMDb profile, but a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 entry will hopefully pop up for all four guys soon enough.