The latest incarnation in the ever morphing “Power Rangers” franchise hits the big screen like a prize fighter who wins the first two and last two rounds of a 10-round fight. It’s the beating in the middle that causes all the pain.
There have been a variety of incarnations of the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” since the show launched in America in 1993. That show, part of the Fox Kids programming, took much of its action footage from the Japanese series “Super Sentai.” Little was expected from the actors as they worked their way through a blend of teen angst and campy humor.
The show got even cheesier with the action scenes that featured the kind of special effects that have been such a part of the “Godzilla” franchise. Someone in Japan must be making a fortune on building miniature cities that can be stomped and crushed.
The new feature film replaces the campy humor with the kind of teen tale that has made movies like “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games” work.
Dacre Montgomery plays Jason, a high school football star who destroys his future with a car accident. Kimberly (Naomi Scott) is dealing with a dark secret while Billy (RJ Cyler) is a brilliant outcast. Trini (Becky G) acts tough while Zack (Ludi Lin) struggles with problems at home.
Most of them come together in a “Breakfast Club” scenario of detention. The connection between Jason and Billy brings the group to a discovery that turns them into five colorfully-clad super heroes. Their training comes from a snarky robot, Alpha 5 (Bill Hader), and a disembodied head, Zordon (Bryan Cranston).
To this point, “Power Rangers” has gotten off to a solid start as the young cast is interesting even when they aren’t decked out in their Power Rangers gear.
Then the bottom falls out of the movie.
The character of Rita Repulsa in the original series was so over the top she was more of a cartoon character than a villain to be feared. Elizabeth Banks takes over the role and pushes the campiness to the point the original Rita looks like a serious Shakespearean actor.
There can’t be a chair, bed or table in Angel Grove (home of the Power Rangers) because Banks chews the scenery so ferociously. No one must have given her the memo that this version of the “Power Rangers” is supposed to be a more serious adaptation.
Banks is bad, but the near-knockout blow comes with one of the most blatant product placements in a movie since the 1988 stinker “Mac and Me” that featured a five-minute dance number in a McDonald’s restaurant featuring Ronald McDonald. An item Rita is looking for just happens to be hidden under the Krispy Kreme doughnut shop in Angel Grove.
That wouldn’t be so bad except Krispy Kreme is mentioned numerous times and there is even a scene in which Rita chomps down on a doughnut while a massive battle is waged outside the building.
If there is to be a long commercial in the middle of the production, it should not happen until the movie airs on TV.
There is some redemption as the final fight scene is strong and doesn’t look like the buildings are made of paper mache. The dialogue by the Rangers is campy but after Banks, nothing seems that overplayed.
“Power Rangers” won’t have you seeing red, feeling blue or in the pink. It’s just nostalgic fun that would have improved with a better villain and less on-screen merchandising.
Cast: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, Bill Hader, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks
Director: Dean Israelite
Rated PG-13 (sci-fi violence, action, language)
Opens: Friday, March 24