“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” is an animated reboot of the franchise, and the first to see a theatrical release in seven years. Marking a new incarnation of the series, director Jeff Rowe (“The Mitchells VS The Machines”) and “permanent teenager” Seth Rogen (who serves as co-writer, co-producer and the voice of Bebop) have crafted a film that ranks among the best movie installments of the franchise to date.
Though the film remixes many aspects of the lore from previous adaptations as well as the original graphic novel series from Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the core concept remains the same. Fifteen years before the main story begins, a vial of radioactive ooze is doused all over a rat and four turtles. In the present day, Leonardo (voice of Nicholas Cantu), Donatello (voice of Micah Abbey), Michelangelo (voice of Shamon Brown Jr) and Raphael (voice of Brady Noon) must balance the day-to-day pitfalls of teenage life with the looming threat of a mutant army led by the massive insect Superfly (voice of rapper/actor Ice Cube).
Much like how the original graphic novels poked fun at the superhero tropes of the time they were published (with the Frank Miller run of “Daredevil” being a specific source of inspiration), this film has a balance of both humorous sendups and genuine affection of its source material and the genre as a whole.
In a similar vein to “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and its sequel, the film has a distinctive blend of techniques from both CGI and 2D animation. By the filmmakers’ own admission, the imperfections of their teenage notebook drawings are key to the film’s visual flair. Everything from cars driving around the streets of New York to Pizza Hut boxes to even stop lights have small details such as pencil shadings and ruler marks to help the artwork stand out. A relatively modest $70 million budget is used to great effect from the opening vanity plates to the final battle against Superfly in Times Square.
The film is also aided by a soundtrack that perfectly compliments the story’s energy. In addition to a musical score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross; the movie features a number of vintage rap songs including DMX’s “Party Up,” Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” and “Can I Kick It” by A Tribe Called Quest.
Overall, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” is easily the best film in the series in years. It’s a highly-recommended “pizza power” treat for newcomers and longtime fans alike. You can kick it- yes you can.
Directed by Jeff Rowe (Based on the graphic novel series by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird)
Starring the voices of Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, John Cena, Giancarlo Esposito, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Paul Rudd and Ice Cube with Ayo Edibiri and introducing Nicholas Cantu, Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown Jr and Brady Noon
My Rating: *****/5