Everyone’s favorite turtles finally get their due in this animated reboot that gets everything right.
It should come as no surprise that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are a big reason why Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is the best Turtles film ever made. But Rogan and his producing partner Goldberg are not the only reason why Mutant Mayhem is a huge success and the beginning of a franchise that is finally moving in the right direction. Sure, it’s not exactly a high bar to surpass when you look back at all the Turtles films that have been released over the years. But thanks to the film’s beautiful animation, the excellent voice cast, and another great score from composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Mutant Mayhem truly stands out in a world of its own that will pull in both new and old fans of these pizza-obsessed shell shockers.
Mutant Mayhem takes us into the sewers of New York City 15 years after the turtles were first exposed to the ooze that gave them and their father, Splinter (Jackie Chan), their gifted abilities. After being sheltered from the world of humans for so long, the teenage turtles want to venture out and help people after assisting a local school reporter, April O’Neil (Ayo Edebiri). When the turtles and April begin to connect the dots related to a string of crimes, it leads back to a syndicate with connections to the ooze that made the turtles who they are. From there, it’s up to the four brothers to stop the syndicate from completing their plans to make humans second to animals.
It’s refreshing to see a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie show the four brothers as actual teenagers trying to discover who they are in their high school years. Whether it’s girls or trying to act like they’re cool, watching the turtles interact like high schoolers and having the same adolescence experiences as their peers during that age range allows for the movie to breathe and be more than just a “save-the-world” story. It also makes for some of the film’s funniest moments in a feature filled with plenty of comedy from every character the film introduces us to along the way. The film also presents a great underlying message to teenagers, and audiences can figure that out if/when they see it.
And speaking of “all the characters” Mutant Mayhem introduces to us, there are a lot of characters presented in a short amount of time. However, it doesn’t feel overwhelming as this is a film that clearly is trying to launch a franchise in multiple directions with a colorful cast of characters that includes a number of noticeable names voicing roles other than the turtles. And Mutant Mayhem’s central villain, Superfly (someone not named Shredder, the arch nemesis of the turtles), who makes for a formidable foe for the turtles to face off against.
Nicolas Cantu, Brady Noon, Shamon Brown, Jr., and Micah Abbey voices Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello, and are all outstanding. Each one brings a unique approach to their turtles, and they all hold their own, especially when considering the amount of talent on display from all the voice actors in supporting roles. While Jackie Chan is certainly the highlight of the voice cast as Splinter, let’s also not forget Ice Cube, who is often funny as Superfly, or John Cena as the mutant rhinoceros, Rocksteady, or Ayo Edebiri as reporter April O’Neil, hot on the heels of her role in Season Two of the acclaimed show The Bear. You’ll recognize other great voice talents throughout the film, whether it’s Hannibal Buress, Rose Byrne, Giancarlo Esposito, Paul Rudd, Maya Rudolph, or even Seth Rogen as the warthog Bebop, and they all bring a freshness to their respective characters.
Mutant Mayhem already is drawing some comparisons to Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse for its beautiful animation that looks different (and great, of course); however, the animation for Mutant Mayhem stands on its own. Whether it’s the New York City skyline at night, the visible squiggly lines showing light bouncing off an object, or the characters themselves, audiences see the turtles and their entire world in a new light with its own stamp that looks both creative and exciting.
With a fresh, story-driven approach to the beloved 80’s characters that millions of people have come to love over the years, Mutant Mayhem is exactly what this franchise has needed for years. While a mid-credits scene that is sure to excite fans for what’s next, I’m curious to see what Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg dish out next with a likely sequel and television component as well. No matter the format, count me in for whatever else they cook up in the sewers or at the local pizza joint.