After years of being sheltered from the human world, the Turtle brothers set out to win the hearts of New Yorkers and be accepted as normal teenagers. Their new friend, April O'Neil, helps them take on a mysterious crime syndicate, but they soon get in over their heads when an army of mutants is unleashed upon them.
Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown Jr., Nicolas Cantu, Brady Noon, Ayo Edebiri, Jackie Chan
I have never really been a big enjoyer of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There was one series adaptation I enjoyed when I was younger, but aside from that it was never one of those widely iconic Nickelodeon properties that ever grasped me. Nonetheless, due to how funny and well animated the trailers made the film seem, I found myself in the theatre the day after Mutant Mayhem’s UK release to see what I’d end up thinking of it.
It might have its flaws, but I was utterly floored by how much I adored Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.
To speak entirely from a personal, subjective standpoint, this is an easy four and a half stars for me and one of my favourite animated offerings in years, though I’ll disclose it to you now—that won’t be my final rating here. As previously stated, the film does have flaws, and I’m looking at this through a more critical lens because, well, it’s my job. While we live in an age of films so long that one like Mutant Mayhem ending after barley a hundred minutes seems like a delight, it could have easily benefited from an extra ten minutes to flesh out certain plot beats. The themes at hand here are genuinely lovely and are so important for the children seeing this film to learn at a young age, but there are scenes present here that perhaps needed an added minute or two so they could feel more earned. Dialogue will go by too quickly to cut to the next riveting explosion, or specific character beats will intentionally be cut just so they can be featured in a mid-credits scene after the film is over.
These aren’t glaring flaws that actively detract from my enjoyment, and it will be more than enough for younger audiences to connect to, but when other recent animated films like Pixar’s “Soul” or the first two offerings of the “Spider-Verse” trilogy have added layers to their thematic relevance despite being aimed at kids, I do have to critique it slightly.
Everything else, however, made for a consistently wonderful time. The animation is arguably the drawing factor for most here and it will not disappoint anyone; it’s comic book art style and exceptional use of colour is stunning consistently, and the occasional change of art style for one or two scenes added an extra layer to that despite it being an infrequent change. On top of that, the editing and transitions used here allow for the film’s breezy pace to feel all the more exciting. There’s one scene animated as if it’s a long take, that transitions seamlessly in to different locations, which had me floored with slick and entertaining it was to watch.
Everybody in the cast does a great job, even if it’s nothing that’s jaw dropping in terms of the voice acting. The stacked cast of cameos and supporting roles is like an extremely fun game of “Guess Who?” and the leading quartet of teen vocal performers help to sell this hilariously modern depiction of chronically online teenagers who long for more from their lives more than I expected them to. All four of them are so likeable throughout the film, and whereas many coming-of-age projects in recent years have attempted to use colloquialisms of the modern day and failed, Mutant Mayhem’s screenplay and cast manage to pull it off.
Typically I’d find myself cringing at the use of “dude”, “bro”, and unexpectedly “rizz” in a film, but here it had me chuckling under my breath due to its execution. Something else that only helps the film’s exuberant tone, humour, and style even flashier and free is the exceptionally well-used hip-hop soundtrack. Hip-hop has always stood for expression and freedom, and the context it’s used here only reinforces all of those themes that make the film so strong. Ross and Reznor’s score also shouldn’t go unnoticed, as when the soundtrack isn’t being utilised, their score maintains the excitement and never lets the movie have a dull moment.
Whilst Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem might move a little too fast for all of its themes to truly stick the landing, those themes are nice enough for the film to thrive on (especially for younger audiences), and the cast, direction, animation, and soundtrack keep it more than afloat where the pacing might have ruined it otherwise.