The heroes in a half-shell are back—in animated form—in the highly entertaining and visually arresting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.
I was a kid when the original live-action Turtles movie was released. My parents wouldn’t let me see it in theaters, but I eventually became a big advocate of the original and its sequel The Secret of the Ooze. I never read the comics, but have always been a casual fan even as subsequent theatrical releases tasted increasingly like tepid turtle soup.
Needless to say, Mutant Mayhem is a refreshing change of course. Featuring a vibrant voice cast and plenty of character, the movie offers a rich experience for kids and adults alike (I took my five-year-old, who, though slightly frightened at several points, walked back to the car kicking and punching like a karate-infused turtle and chattering away about the fly-whale-horse monster).
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is comparable to Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse released two months prior, in terms of tone, visual style, and energy. They aren’t the same—Spider-Verse is more ambitious both in story and animation—but if you found that web-slinging adventure to be overwhelming (and, let’s face it, as awesome as it is, it goes for broke and then some), Mutant Mayhem may be more your speed. Its story is straightforward—even basic—and the art looks like it was made by people who weren’t on drugs.
Most importantly, it’s just damn good. Director Jeff Rowe (who made the under-seen The Mitchells vs. the Machines) confidently brings the pieces together. The screenplay is smart, hip and creative—funny too, but not too funny. The voice cast is great, most notably Ice Cube as the villain Superfly, and the movie looks fantastic too.
There is not much not to like. It’s just over 90 minutes long—awesome—it’s fast paced, and brimming with energy. In fact, it’s an absolute blast you shouldn’t miss.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.