REVIEW — “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem”
Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s heroes in a half shell are back on the big screen in Seth Rogan’s totally rad and spastically animated, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.
In Mutant Mayhem, the lean, green, NYC sewer-dwelling teens are sick of life underground. They long to step out of the shadows and into the society they adore. The pizza-loving bros daydream of being Ferris Bueller and yearn for a natural teen experience that includes high school, prom, trips to the movies, girlfriends, close friends, and being noticed. They want what all teens want: a life. Unfortunately, their overprotective, mutant rat “dad,” Splinter (Jackie Chan) fears the human world and forbids them from life in public.
Master Splinter trained them in multiple martial arts so they can defend themselves from persecution while they stealthily scavenge above ground for provisions. Their training gets put to the test one night when they intervene to save teenage human April O’Neil (Ayo Edibiri) from a gang of street thugs.
The ambitious high school journalist befriends the turtles and inspires them to use their powers for good, and in return society will, hopefully, appreciate and accept them. The problem is, the city is under attack from an army of mutant creatures that were created in a lab years earlier by geneticist Baxter Stockman (Giancarlo Esposito).
The turtles’ cousins in-ooze include favorite TMNT series characters and deep cuts voiced by a roster of talented comedic performers such as Rogen (BeBop), John Cena (Rocksteady), Paul Rudd (Mondo Gecko), Hannibal Buress (Genghis Frog), Rose Byrne (Leatherhead), Natasia Demetriou (Wingnut), and Post Malone (Ray Fillet).
They are led by the villainous Superfly (Ice Cube) who is determined to wipe humanity off the face of the Earth. Elsewhere in the city, foot soldiers led by Cynthia Utrom (Maya Rudolph) are trying to capture and milk the mutants of their powerful ooze.
This places the turtles in a pickle: Do they fall in line with the misled mutant “family” they’ve been searching for their whole lives, or use their Turtle Power to protect the human world that likely fears and rejects them. Is crime fighting really the turtle’s ticket to fame, glory, and acceptance?
Written by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Jeff Rowe, Mutant Mayhem uses their dilemma and search for acceptance to explore new ground with the Ninja Turtles’ identity. Instead of relying on red-, blue-, purple-, or orange-colored eye masks to differentiate them, the film gives each turtle their own distinctive personality to set them apart.
It is also the first time, to my knowledge, that the turtles have been cinematically voiced by authentic teenagers. The iconic foursome, consisting of Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu), Donatello (Micah Abbey), Michaelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr.), and Raphael (Brady Noon), truly speak and interact like common, everyday, tech-savvy, pop-cultured teens. They just also happen to be large mutant turtles, the result of their exposure to a green ooze fifteen years prior.
The computer animated film uses sketchy, hand-drawn style to bring the characters to life in vivid color. The result, directed by Jeff Rowe and co-directed by Kyler Spears, is a refreshingly frenetic animated adventure that features wild action, constant jokes, and a fresh 90s hip-hop soundtrack that perfectly captures the spirit of the Ninja Turtles. 3.5/5
Rated PG with a running time of 1 hour and 39 minutes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem opens in theaters on August 2, 2023.