FILM REVIEW: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
A decent launchpad for this version of the Turtles
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are given a fresh coat of paint in their latest feature, Mutant Mayhem, adopting a similar experimental style of animation to the Spider-Verse movies and bringing on Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to write and produce. As fresh as this take is, however, it also comes with its own set of burdens.
Growing up as outcasts and sheltered from the human world by their biased rat-dad Splinter, amicably voiced by Jackie Chan, the Turtles are living the classic teenage experience, wanting to go out and experience everything the world has to offer, despite their parents’ wishes. The young voice cast sell it and Rogen and Goldberg’s authentic writing puts the ‘teenage’ in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The visual style is striking and energetic, as if scribbled by a bored student in the back of their school book, enhancing the youthful spirit of the production. Simultaneously, an expansive night-time cityscape and crazy character designs of other mutants such as Genghis Frog, Mondo Gecko, and Bebop and Rocksteady bring the gritty criminal underworld to life. These characters are voiced by a Who’s Who of Rogen’s prior collaborators (as well as Rogen himself as Bebop), including Hannibal Buress, Rose Byrne and Paul Rudd, but Ice Cube is both cool and intimidating as Superfly - a resentful mutated housefly seeking revenge on the human world.
As authentic as these characters are and as true to the teenage experience this film is, Mutant Mayhem is let down by a few too many pop culture references and TikTok generation slang that compromises the stakes. As a result, the Turtles don’t often feel like heroes, especially given the fact that they learned ninjutsu by watching TV rather than through genuine skill - a poor, lazy reflection on the movie’s target audience. The film could have found a better balance between life-threatening action and teenage levity, perhaps by portraying the Turtles as hard-working and skilful fighters, but who still crumble when they talk to girls.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is a very good film, but it is one that is hindered by nitpicks. Authentic and visually enthralling, the comedy writing of Rogen and Goldberg sometimes prevents this film from being taken seriously (yes, the writing and nothing else). That being said, this is a decent launchpad for this version of the Turtles who will hopefully be seen again soon.