Action Adventure

Review: ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem’ Delivers a Fresh, Crowd-Pleasing Twist on a Long-Standing Superhero Franchise

July 27, 2023Ben MK

For nearly forty years, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have captured the imaginations of comic book readers and film and TV audiences alike. Since bursting onto the pop culture scene in 1984, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's brooding, black-and-white vigilantes turned pizza-loving heroes in a half shell have conquered the box office, starred in several television shows, and even won the hearts of video gamers. And now, with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, these bodacious ninja warriors are poised to do the same for a whole new generation of moviegoers, as directors Jeff Rowe and Kyler Spears take viewers on an animated adventure unlike anything TMNT fans have seen before.

Arriving 33 years after their live-action big screen debut and 7 years after Michael Bay's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Mutant Mayhem restarts the Turtles' mythology by introducing audiences to a brand new quartet of green teens voiced by Nicolas Cantu, Micah Abbey, Brady Noon and Shamon Brown Jr. As Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo, respectively, this foursome aren't the same skilled set of vigilante heroes who defeated the evil villain known as the Shredder, but rather a group of awkward, uncoordinated adolescents with zero battle experience. Transformed from ordinary baby turtles 15 years ago by a mutagenic ooze created by TCRI scientist Baxter Stockman (Giancarlo Esposito), they were raised by their surrogate father, Splinter (Jackie Chan), a human-hating rat who was mutated into a human-sized rat by the very same ooze. And for the last decade and a half, this unconventional family has dwelled in the sewers, only venturing to the surface world for the obligatory grocery run or to catch a glimpse of the occasional Brooklyn movie night in the park.

Unbeknownst to them, however, Splinter and the Turtles aren't the only mutants in New York City. Once Baxter Stockman's pet housefly but now a devious criminal mastermind with a scheme to turn the entire planet's animal population into his fellow mutants, Superfly (Ice Cube) has spent the last 15 years lurking in the shadows, enlisting the help of unwitting human thugs-for-hire to help him amass the technology needed to carry out his plan. Along with his fellow mutants — Bebop (Seth Rogen), Rocksteady (John Xena), Mondo Gecko (Paul Rudd), Leatherhead (Rose Byrne), Ray Fillet (Post Malone), Genghis Frog (Hannibal Buress), Wingnut (Natasia Demetriou) and Scumbag — Superfly has managed to elude the authorities and baffle the media, who have yet to come to the realization that a mutant apocalypse is looming upon them. But when the Turtles cross paths with an aspiring high school journalist by the name of April O'Neil (Ayo Edebiri), their chance meeting might be just want humanity needs, as April and the Turtles set out to catch Superfly and prove to the world that not all mutants are worth fearing.

Throw in the mysterious Cynthia Utrom (Maya Rudolph), who has her own sinister plans for weaponizing the ooze, and viewers in the mood for some hip-hop-themed, pizza-fuelled action comedy won't be left wanting. From the Turtles' laugh-out-loud banter and their heartfelt camaraderie to the film's colorful and equally hilarious rogues gallery, there's plenty for longtime TMNT fans to wax nostalgic about. Yet, at the same time, Mutant Mayhem also delivers a fresh, new angle on these iconic heroes, upending audience expectations in the best of ways. Whether it's Chan's portrayal of Splinter as a bumbling parental figure who taught his sons the art of ninjitsu using cheesy martial arts movies or the film's distinctive art style, this ain't the same Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles most of us grew up with. And while some might consider that a negative, there's no question that it all works wonderfully in the movie's favor, making this the most fun and enjoyable TMNT outing since The Secret of the Ooze.

Suffice to say, you can't go wrong with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. Because whether you're someone who's new to the Turtles or a lifelong fan, there's truly something here for everyone. Like Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Mutant Mayhem takes a familiar franchise and delivers an altogether unique and delightfully unconventional twist that's guaranteed to please. And with a sequel and spinoff TV series already in the works, audiences can rest assured that there's plenty more Turtle power on the way.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem releases August 2nd, 2023 from Paramount Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG for sequences of violence and action, language and impolite material. Its runtime is 1 hr. 39 min.

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