Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: A Chinatown Ghost Story Review

With Bill Murray out of action, Donatello, Casey, and April take the call.

After a couple months away and a financially successful movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles returns with a Big Trouble in Little China tribute that unfortunately only a Carpenter lover might enjoy. The episode is so focused on being a tribute to that film that the teenage, mutant, ninja, and turtle parts are pushed to the side.

It’s common practice for an episode to focus on only one turtle; this one starts off with a focus on Donnie (and Casey), but relegates them to the sidelines for most of the story. Because the lead turtle is pushed to the B-story, the others are pushed even further to the fringes of the episode. Raph, Leo, and Mikey have little to nothing to say or do; how sad is it that Mikey only has about three jokes?

Instead, “ACGS” gives the A-plot to Ho Chan. The episode shows him recruiting lackeys, giving them powers, acquiring a “lair of opulent beauty,” searching for a woman to grant him his physical form again, etc. The episode is all about him and unfortunately he’s not an inherently interesting character outside of the uncomfortable and questionable Fu Manchu/yellow peril decisions that only exist because it happened in the ‘80s.

Fans of Big Trouble might get a kick out of it. There seems to be a lot of references to the film in this episode; the big one being that they got Lo Pan himself (James Hong) to voice Ho Chan. Hong has an impressive acting career, but unfortunately (which is unfortunately the word of the day) the material he’s given doesn’t stand on its own. He tries to inject life in to the ghost, but most of the jokes in the dialogue are aimed for kids (because there needs to be something for them in a John Carpenter themed episode) or are him spouting gibberish that’s supposed to sound Chinese.

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The gibberish is just a symptom of the overall episode. If you know Big Trouble, it’s a bunch of references to a respected 80s action flick. If you don’t know Big Trouble, the episode is a bunch of racist oriental mysticism. Although even if you do know Big Trouble, the episode is still a bunch of racist oriental mysticism.

There could have been a decent tribute in this episode, but instead it seemed to settle for surface level references to the film. That’s not okay. The 80s were brutal to Asian(-American) characters and what happened then should not be acceptable today, yet in 2014 they centered an entire episode around a Fu Manchu stereotype.

Random Asides:

  • How depressing is it that the Purple Dragons, a group of villains that were repeatedly called out for being the most pathetic villains on the show, got more screen time and dialogue than Raph, Leo, or Mikey?
  • The Three Storms: Thunder, Lightning, and our lawyers told us we have to use Wind instead of Rain.
  • April AND Irma were kidnapped? RESET THAT CLOCK.
  • It’s great to see April save the day, but the running gag of lying to Irma is bothering. I really hope she finds out about the turtles next season, so that way Kate Micucci and Seth Green can have that Four Kings reunion I’ve been waiting for.
  • For those of you that weren’t fans of Four Kings, the short lived Must See TV series from early 2006, it was basically Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles if the turtles were in their late 20s and were terrible at ninjutsu.
  • This week, Leo was voiced by Dominic Catrambone.
  • The not-wikipedia article on Ho Chan included this paragraph that sounds like it could have been written by Douglas Adams: “The desertion of nearby towns enabled Ho Chan to start a large colony of sorcerers, avid tea drinkers, and condiment enthusiasts who dubbed themselves as the “Sorcerer’s Saucer Sauce”. Though tasseography existed during this time, his colony was the first to read fortune from tea and the various condiments spilled on their laps.”
  • LOUIE ANDERSON FOR KRAANG: Louie has experience failing to mine comedy from foreigner stereotypes; he was in the unaired pilot of Perfect Strangers

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1 out of 5