Movie Pass: "Saban's Power Rangers"_00013515.jpg
Movie Pass: "Saban's Power Rangers"
01:52 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

“Power Rangers” arrives with a pretty serious case of “Transformers” envy, hoping to transform another kids toy franchise of the past into a theatrical blockbuster. The overlong origin story, however, doesn’t pack much power, while owing as much of a debt to “The Breakfast Club” as its action-figure selling namesake.

This more grown-up, PG-13-rated edition has conspicuously dropped the “Mighty Morphin” part of its name, while adding a few high-profile supporting players, among them Bryan Cranston as the gang’s disembodied guide Zordon, and Elizabeth Banks as the villainous Rita Repulsa. One is tempted to ask what nice actors like you are doing in a place like this (Cranston actually had some history with the series), but among the rainbow of Ranger colors, green is always a pretty powerful motivator.

The plot hews pretty closely to the original template, with a diverse group of five high school students (including, it should be noted, the most oblique reference imaginable to one being gay) stumbling upon the mystique artifacts that will turn them into the Power Rangers, an ancient order tasked with protecting the universe.

At first, there’s some fun as they exult in their new powers, on the order of “Spider-Man,” times five. But then the narrative bogs down as they prove unable to “morph” into their armor, creating what amounts to a long tease while Rita marshals her forces and the various characters deal with different aspects of pubescent angst, from the disgraced quarterback and cheerleader to the “on the spectrum” nerd and outcasts.

Inevitably, director Dean Israelite and writer John Gatins incorporate the franchise’s sillier and more nostalgic underpinnings, from snippets of the “Go go Power Rangers” theme that chased many a parent from the room to a seemingly inevitable “Transformers” joke.

The younger cast members are appealing enough under the circumstances. At over two hours, though, the movie simply takes too long building up toward the inevitable showdown, which pretty quickly devolves into a lot of CGI-enhanced mayhem that has its moments but isn’t quite stirring enough to justify the wait.

Frankly, “Power Rangers’” history is as colorful as the show itself, a Japanese concept that mixed existing action scenes with American-shot footage. The series became an enormous, wholly unexpected hit in the U.S., helping producer Haim Saban evolve from a self-described “cartoon schlepper” into a politically influential billionaire.

Saban’s name is all over this new version, which, as with “Transformers” and the hard-to-kill “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” hopes to leverage nostalgia into a Rangers renaissance, with original fans now old enough to have had their own little “I want that!” toy consumers.

Stranger things have happened, but like most of its predecessors that have attempted this feat, there’s not much more to “Power Rangers” than meets the eye.

“Power Rangers” premieres March 24 in the U.S. It’s rated PG-13.