This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie/series/feature being covered here wouldn't exist.
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is an absolute riot that absolutely deserves your attention."
BY JACK RANSOM JULY 31, 2023
It’s been 7 years since the reptilian rebels last graced the silver screen and now they are back for an animated adventure. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem sees 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.
The Ninja Turtles is a franchise I have always had an interest in, but need to delve more into (especially their darker comic book origins). That being said I absolutely loved the TMNT: Fast Forward show as a kid and their crossover with Batman is a lot of fun. In all honesty I can’t remember a thing about both the 2010’s Bay produced flicks, and and I still need to watch 2007’s lesser mentioned TMNT, Netflix’ Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their nostalgic fan favourite live action 90’s run.
What Mutant Mayhem brings is a fast paced, gleefully upbeat and excitable 100 minutes that balances a whole host of wacky, over-the-top characters and a punky tone alongside genuine heart, spearheaded by a poignant message about fitting in and acceptance. The film doubles down on the ‘teenage’ element of the characters, which obviously brings humour that is aimed squarely at that younger audience and an occasionally slightly grating over-reliance on pop culture references. However, the rapid-fire gags and some unexpectedly eccentric and ridiculous slapstick/toilet humour make up for them.
Animation has had a double whammy of visually unique stunners this year with Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and now Mutant Mayhem can be added to that list. This truly looks like a comic book come to life, with the thick pen and pencil lines, meticulously shaded and detailed backdrops and eye-widening designs for the myriad of mutants. It absolutely has its own defining style and completely owns it. The action is a blast, from their first chaotic encounter with April (Ayo Edebiri), a hip-hop backed interrogation montage which had me grinning from ear to ear and a bombastically big scale finale. Also, said soundtrack is packed to the brim with rap bangers.
The cast line-up is filled with recognisable big names in the mutant support roles (including Paul Rudd, John Cena and Rose Byrne). However, the turtles themselves are brilliantly voiced by four young (and with no offence intended) unknown performers: Nicolas Cantu, Brady Noon, Micah Abbey & Shamon Brown Jr, who absolutely nail the brotherly banter and love for each other. Ice Cube is a huge presence as the brazenly evil and power hungry Superfly, Jackie Chan brings elderly wisdom and quirkiness to Splinter and Ayo Edebiri’s fast talking, smart yet anxious April O’Neal is a refreshing spin on the character.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is an absolute riot that absolutely deserves your attention. It’s a loud, playful, rapid fire punky dousing of ooze that will please younger and older fans alike. The animation is a visual feast, the soundtrack bops and the characters are a lot of fun. The pop culture references do become a little overbearing and obnoxious at points, however they are mostly forgivable as the film’s positive messages take centre stage.