Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been rebooted so many times over the years it's hard to keep track of the number of times they've changed since they first appeared on comic shelves in the mid-1980s. The latest iteration of the group found in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is neither the best nor worst version we've seen. Presenting a grungier animation, likely in hopes of pulling in comparisons to the Spider-Verse movies (it is not on that level), the script takes various aspects of the Turtles origins, altering and updating them slightly for a familiar and fresh feel for the foursome.

When the film sticks with character interactions, and the goofiness of the teenage shut-ins who happen to have some ninja skills, there's quite a bit to enjoy. However, I found the action sequences to be mostly just chaotic and loud more than anything else, which became a growing concern once the rise to the climactic battle with the evil Superfly (Ice Cube) began.

While not being wowed by the animation, I'll admit it fits the assortment of odd characters of the movie well enough. Along with Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu), Raphael (Brady Noon), Michelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr.), Donatello (Micah Abbey), and Splinter (Jackie Chan), we also get Rocksteady (John Cena), Bebop (Seth Rogen), and Mondo Gecko (Paul Rudd), amongst others. And I will give design of the primary four characters some credit for playing into the teenage awkwardness of the Turtles.

Recasting April (Ayo Edebiri) as the same age of the Turtles works well. It's not a new idea, having been explored previously in other versions of the Turtles, but having a more youthful April get caught up in the adventures works as a stand-in for the younger audience the movie is obviously targeting. Not all the tweaks to the classic characters work as well, however. While offering a cheap gag, the idea of of Splinter teaching his boys martial arts from a throwaway video tape raises real doubt about how skilled the Turtles should be. They certainly aren't that good at sneaking around, except when the script needs them to be, they are inconsistent in battle, except when the script needs them to be, and they don't work well as a team, except when... well, you get the point.

I much prefer, and would heartily recommend, 2007's TMNT that feels a little more grounded in the comic book roots of the characters while pulling in influences from other adaptions as well. While Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem has some chaotic energy and fun takes on the characters (emphasizing the teenage in their name more than the ninja), ultimately it isn't something I'm ever likely to go back to. And, of course, leaving the Foot Clan completely out of the storyline makes this version of the Turtles feel somewhat incomplete.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
  • IMDb: link

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