PLOT Five misfit teenagers discover they are destined to save humanity from evil.
CAST Dacre Montgomery, RJ Cyler, Elizabeth Banks
RATED PG-13 (sexual innuendo and violence)
BOTTOM LINE More expensive-looking yet somehow even cheesier than the 1990s television show.
Partway through “Saban’s Power Rangers,” the latest feature-film version of the long-running television series, a bit of marketing-speak sneaks into the script. The story, such as it is, consists of five ethnically diverse teenagers in a California town who discover color-coded medallions that transform them into superheroes. A robot named Alpha 5, with the jocular voice of Bill Hader, sums it up neatly: “Different colors! Different kids! Different-colored kids!”
You can almost hear studio executives repeating this to each other in elevators and conference rooms as “Saban’s Power Rangers” made its way from concept to page to screen. It’s as good a description as any for this calculated, derivative attempt to turn a decades-old piece of junk culture into a new pile of box-office cash.
Originally the heroes of a Japanese children’s show, the Power Rangers were brought to America on the cheap by Saban Entertainment, which simply hired English-speaking actors and reused much of the original footage. Here, the Rangers get the serious, big-budget treatment. The five characters are now a “Breakfast Club” assortment of misfits, three of whom — football hero Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery), nerdy Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler) and pretty Kimberly (Naomi Scott) — actually meet in detention. How they get from there to a spaceship buried deep in the Earth is hard to explain, but they’re joined by two outliers: perpetual new-girl Trini (Becky G) and wild-and-crazy Zack (Ludi Lin).
Cue the dramatic back stories, including a high-pressure dad and a dying mother, plus topical issues of cyberbullying and possible homosexuality. (The latter is handled with such hemming and hawing that you’ll wonder why the filmmakers even brought it up.) All this just to get five kids to battle the ludicrous villain Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks).
The only people who might enjoy this movie — those younger than 8 — probably shouldn’t see it because of the teen-level sexual innuendo and moments of fairly intense violence. The old show provided dumb entertainment suitable for children. “Saban’s Power Rangers” can’t even do that.