Nostalgia can be a hard sell beyond the demographic parameters of its generation. So, full disclosure here, the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” were never my thing, any more than “Transformers” or even “G.I.Joe” were.
Whatever their virtues or appeal, they’re all lumped into an entertainment-that-sells-toys corner of ’80s-90s kids TV shlock that I made a point to channel surf right by.
But I can appreciate, at least, the brio that cast and crew brought to “Power Rangers,” the movie reboot of the silly-suited Japanese TV import about teens turned superheroes to save the Earth from alien villainy.
It’s smartly cast, and shot and edited with real verve, with moments of banter and diversity and just enough teen angst (bullies don’t stand a chance in this world) to render it relevant and of-our-moment.
“Do you feel weird?”
“Weirder than usual?”
It’s still two hours and four minutes I will never, ever get back — utter piffle, from its Cenozoic Era opening to the closing credits of what Lionsgate hopes will become a franchise.
The set-up? Teen misfits gather and stumble into their calling. They include the adrenaline junky high school quarterback (Aussie Dacre Montgomery) whose latest prank, staged with gusto (and a car chase) got him injured, house arrest and an ankle bracelet. There’s leggy Kimberly (Naomi Scott), ostracized by her clique and in Saturday “Breakfast Club” detention because of cell phone harassment. Nerdy “I’m on the spectrum” Billy (RJ Cyler of “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”) is the one who drags everybody to this mine in Angel Falls where his dad used to work. And that’s where they pick up Asian (Ludi Lin) and Latina (Becky G.) teens who fill out their quintet.
Magic coins open up a buried spaceship, where obnoxiously adorable robot Alpha (Bill Hader selling his voice) and ancient alien do-gooder Zordan (Bryan Cranston? Seriously?) give the kids their marching orders.
“It’s MORPHIN time!”
And those are to foil Rita Repulsive (Elizabeth Banks. Of course. ), who takes a licking and keeps on quipping. Badly.
Director Dean Israelite of “Project Almanac” uses extreme close-ups in chases and brawls, all to decent effect. The digital effects are shiny and just cheesy enough to summon memories of the TV show. The Ranger uniforms? Updated.
But that story does nothing but remind you of how often we’ve seen this “Teens Get Superpowers” drivel. It was old news when “Chronicle” took it on and made the point that Generation Distracted maybe wasn’t the best choice for omnipotence.
The players, attractive as they are, register more as “types” filling out an EEO chart than distinct people, save for the first three introduced. The dialogue devolves into variations of “I got this.” Banks, the poor thing, should take out a contract on whoever did her makeup, lit and photographed her. “Repulsive” is an understatement, and that’s the skin tone where the makeup and mask aren’t covering her.
And when it’s over, its messages about reckless behavior, “misfits” and mortality delivered, if you don’t feel all warm and fuzzy about it, you must not have grown up with the dippy TV show theme-song memorized.
MPAA Rating:PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, language, and for some crude humor
Cast: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Becky G., Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston and the voice of Bill Hader
Credits:Directed by Dean Israelite, script by John Gatins, based on the Shaim Saban TV series. A Lionsgate release.
Running time: 2:04