- Rose Byrne, Ayo Edebiri, Seth Rogen, John Cena
- Written by
- Seth Rogan, Evan Goldberg, Jeff Rowe, Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit ( screenplay), Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird ( characters)
- Directed by
- Jeff Rowe and Kyler Spears
- Release Date
- August 2nd, 2023
- 1 hr. 39 min.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are pushing 40 years old, and what makes me feel even older than that is the fact that these were the last “kid” toys I collected as I hit my own teenage years. I went from playing with turtles riding skateboards to riding my very own skateboard. It was no longer about Leonardo, Donetello, Michelangelo, and Raphael. It was all Tony Hawk, Lance Mountain, Steve Caballero, and Danny Way. But I had fond memories of those last few years, and I still continued to read the comics by creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. Even to this day (Check out The Last Ronin, it’s a great Turtle story).
And even though I still enjoy elements of the Turtle live-action movies of the 90’s, I didn’t care much for the last two modern versions of the characters (were they supposed to be teenage?). Where I always thought they shined was in animation. From the 80’s to the 2012 animated series, they just always seemed to work better in this form. Even the underrated 2009 TV movie Turtles Forever was impressive in its boldness and storytelling. So I wouldn’t necessarily say my bar was high for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, but it was still going to have a lot to live up to.
Tweaking the origin slightly, we are introduced to lonely scientist Baxter Stockman (Giancarlo Esposito) looking to use a high-tech genetics lab’s materials to create his own “family” of mutants. When his lab is destroyed and a vial of ooze is sent down a sewer, we cut to 15 years later and meet the result of the spilled ooze: Leo (Nicholas Cantu), Mikey (Shamon Brown Jr.), Donny (Micah Abbey), and Raph (Brady Noon) the TMNT’s and their father (not master) Splinter (Jackie Chan). How they become ninjas is too good that I will not spoil it, but suffice it to say they become weapon-wielding stealth-like ninjas jumping across rooftops in New York.
Striving to be part of the human world, their ultimate dream is just to go to high-school like normal teens. But when Baxter Stockman’s first mutant creation Superfly (Ice Cube) is attempting to build a destructive device with the help of his mutant minions, its up to our heroes and their new friend April O’Neil (Ayo Edebiri) to save the city and possibly the world.
First off, and most importantly, this is without a doubt the best TMNT movie ever made. It’s not true to the original comic, but it is true to what the characters became over the years. It’s all about family. The turtles have a incredible brotherly rapport that they have is captured so well in the young actors performances. They way they bounce off each other, talk over each other and constantly whip out some great zingers is truly impressive. And I can’t remember the last time I heard Jackie Chan speak so much, he is hilarious as Splinter, the animators even paid homage to his real-life fighting style in his action scenes.
It was also a great idea to age everyone down to about mid-teens. Especially April, as she is not a hot-shot reporter, she is a brave, but still unsure of herself young lady trying her best to find her way. I really appreciated the time spent on her origin and overall arc. It’s clear there is love for the characters coming from the top with producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg who also wrote the script with the help of several writers including co-director Jeff Rowe who is partly responsible for the phenomenal The Mitchells vs. the Machines from a few years back, and the not talked about enough Gravity Falls. The movie breezes by in just over an hour and a half, as it delivers hilarious and at times heartfelt scenes throughout.
The animation landscape that changed with Into the Spider-Verse continues here, but instead of flat out ripping it off, Mutant Mahem has it’s own style, with scribbles everywhere and characters with misshaped heads and awkward movements. It is unique but still remains cinematic and has a most excellent score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. I genuinely loved this movie, and look forward to more of what the filmmakers are planning to bring from out of the sewers and onto the big screen.