Director: Jeff Rowe
Starring: Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown Jr., Hannibal Buress, Rose Byrne, Nicolas Cantu, John Cena, Jackie Chan, Ice Cube, Natasia Demetriou, Ayo Edebiri, Giancarlo Esposito, Post Malone, Brady Noon, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, and Maya Rudolph
Movie Length: 1 hour 40 minutes
Like Transformers, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon managed to imprint itself on a generation of children while at the same time selling countless toys. In the 1990s, we were given a pretty decent live action adaptation (which then led to the Secret of the Ooze sequel with… Vanilla Ice). At one point or another, we’ve had movie versions of Casey Jones, Rocksteady, Bebop, and even Krang. But Mutant Mayhem manages to bring in some of the more bizarre and awesome characters from the original cartoon. The thoughtful way it uses its source material, coupled with a strong plot, and visually arresting animation makes this the best Turtles movie yet.
One of the thrills from the original cartoon was when an episode would throw a new character in to break the monotony of the Turtles vs Shredder paradigm (which yeah, served as a way to sell more toys as well). Mutant Mayhem is chock full of random characters from the cartoon, but it does so in a way that fits perfectly into the plot. The story keeps many of the touchstones of the classic TMNT origin, while putting its own spin on it. That spin includes a surprising new way to look at some of the series’ classic villains. Far from being an excuse for turtles to do ninja stuff, the story provides more emotional heft and character growth than any prior installment. It is plain to see that the team behind this movie (which includes Seth Rogan) included fans of the characters.
If the story doesn’t do it for you, Mutant Mayhem is worth checking out for the animation, which evokes stop-motion claymation. While not as ‘real’ as live action, the animation feels more weighty than a cartoon or traditional CGI. The voice work features an all-star cast including Jackie Chan, John Cena, Ice Cube, Post Malone, Rose Byrne, Giancarlo Esposito, Paul Rudd, and Maya Rudolph. Most of the big names are in supporting roles, which allowed me to enjoy the Turtles’ performances without focusing on who was playing them.
Mutant Mayhem manages to put a unique spin on the Turtles’ story while feeling authentic. It spends just enough time going over the Turtles’ origin so you don’t have to be familiar with the cartoon or prior movies. With that said, longtime Turtles fans will love the fan service and easter eggs.
Here is a podcast version of the review (with a bonus Barbie review):
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is now in theaters.
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