The surprisingly good sequel to the 2014 hit reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” does a few really impressive things. It smartly picks up the strings of the first film in order to move the story forward, it shows more insightful sides of the main characters, and it successfully delivers a strong and thoughtful message to the young viewers at which it’s aimed.

The heroic reptile brothers start off as happy as ever, atop the Chrysler Building, staring down at New York, wishing they could be on the streets, among the crowds. But they know they must remain in the shadows, away from people, because they’re, well, they’re big mutant ninja turtles.

But with the willing assistance of ace TV reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and wannabe hero Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett), they at least get the job done of protecting their city, albeit doing it in secret. In the first film, they managed to defeat the villainous Shredder (first played by Tohoru Masamune, here by Brian Tee). It’s now a year later, and Shredder is being transferred to a new prison in a heavily guarded vehicle driven by corrections officer Casey Jones (Stephen Amell), who would much rather be employed as a detective. That’s not likely to happen soon, especially after Shredder is busted loose from the moving prison in a spectacular set piece (that’s reminiscent of what happened to Dominic Toretto in “Fast Five”).

But this is not just your normal, everyday escape. Also involved are mad scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry, overdoing it to just the right comic effect) and a multi-tentacled thing from another planet named Krang (voice of Brad Garrett), who has some devious plans for Shredder and nasty ones for our world.

Can our heroes — Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello — help? Well, they’re kind of busy up in the Madison Square Garden rafters, watching the Knicks lose and scarfing down pizza. But things get pretty bad, pretty fast in the city. And it’s no help that two prisoners who were also broken loose with Shredder have become part of his team. They would be petty criminals Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly AKA WWE wrestler Sheamus) who, saying they’re tired of being errand boys, become Shredder’s errand boys, and then unwilling experiments for Baxter Stockman, who transforms them into a wild warthog and a rampaging rhino.

Yes, our heroes have their hands full, and the action is enjoyably and terrifically delivered. But then comes that unexpected “message” part. When two of the Turtles realize that humans have been turned into animals, they begin to wonder if they and their two brothers can be turned human, so they can come “out of the shadows.”

The film takes some time out to get serious about this, and to get into a side story about strife between the Turtles, about what they should do, about what their real purpose is. Yet while that part is nicely played out, without becoming overbearing, the film keeps its comic-action flavor rolling, with Casey Jones donning a silly mask and a hockey stick and taking on the role of the guy who will capture those that he let escape. An odd and funny moment comes when someone asks him a question and he responds, but the mask muffles his voice, and he can’t be understood.

But things get “serious” again when Krang’s plans start to materialize up in the sky, as pieces of his Technodrome (whatever the heck that is) appear and begin to merge together. Can the brothers get over their hassles and become a working team again? Oh, come on. That’s a silly question. New York is in trouble. They must do what they must do to save it, even if it means coming “out of the shadows” and then, because there are so many cool places in the city, hanging out together in the Statue of Liberty’s torch. This is a movie made for little boys, but it can be enjoyed by everyone.

— Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows”
Written by Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec; directed by Dave Green
With Stephen Amell, Megan Fox, Brian Tee, Will Arnett, Tyler Perry
Rated PG-13