Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem


‘…a kids/family film that’s smarter than most films for adults, and should cross-over to audiences of all ages; in the immortal words of Y Kid K, get ready to spin that wheel, because these turtles just got real…’

What do we talk about, when we talk about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem? What seemed like a dormant big-screen franchise has been successfully rebooted to the tune of $100+ million in a couple of weeks at the global box-office, with a sequel and follow-up series already coming down the sewer pipe in short order. This animated feature rolls back multiple cinematic wrong-turns to double down on the first thing we ever knew about the Ninja Turtles; they’re meant to be teenagers, duh. And being a teenager is about more than shouting ‘Cowabunga dude’ and liking pizza; there’s a world of growing-up angst to be explored, and fortunately the team behind Jeff Rowe’s Mutant Mayhem deliver on that promise of authentic teen voices.

Lines like ‘I know it’s objectively prejudiced but that’s what they taught us,’ flag up early that these ain’t the bland characters we’ve previously known; this is an origin story for the loquacious ‘little Shreks’. It’s also a self-proclaimed ‘tragic backstory’ of sorts; we see the turtles in a lab, getting doused with the mysterious, power-sharing ooze, meeting up with their adoptive rat father Splinter (Jackie Chan) and introduced to tv reporter April O’Neill (Ado Edeberi). Yes, every generation gets the April O’Neill they deserve, and while others made do with Sarah Michelle Gellar or Megan Fox, this April is known as ‘puke girl’ due to her tendency to vomit when nervous. Once assembled, the team are up against extremist antagonist Superfly (Ice Cube), who shares the turtles’ dream of acceptance by the outside world, but seeks it in a rather more direct way…

Mutant Mayhem also resolves multiple issues about the size and scope of a turtle adventure by focusing on the traditionally ignored business of fighting crime; the meat and potatoes of any kind of super-hero, so no time-travel, multiverses, vortexes, portals or any of that nonsense; we’re firmly in scuzzy New York City and foiling robberies is how the turtles aim to win our hearts. ‘You sound like such a leader…that was so heartfelt bro,’ is the kind of cheery dialogue that lays bare the crushing need to be liked that the turtles share as a common cause. It’s not easy to miss the influence of Superbad’s Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg on the funky new direction here, but they generally rein in their cruder impulses in this family friendly feature; they keep it clean AND keep it green. It’s also, in the vein of the Spiderverse animations, impressive to look at, with a knowing super-stoner sound track including Take it To The Limit, Eye Know by De La Soul, Can I Kick it? by A Tribe Called Quest and of course, Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Shimmy Shimmy Ya.

‘I like your vibe’ says one of their allies Mondo Gecko (Paul Rudd), and Mutant Mayhem is a movie that surprisingly manages to cause far more of the warm and fuzzy feels we’d hope for in a TMNT movie. As with Barbie, the secret of reviving old IP is having a fresh and relevant vision that expands on the original promise of the material; TMNT: MM has all that in plentiful quality. Even if they don’t have nipples, or last names, these guys are easily the best big-screen version of the Turtles we’ve seen to date; with Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne and other talent properly engaged, it’s one of 2023’s most surprising successes. It’s also a kids/family film that’s smarter than most films for adults, and should cross-over to audiences of all ages; in the immortal words of Y Kid K, get ready to spin that wheel, because these heroic turtles just got real. Awesome!



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  1. I’m grateful for your review. Like many of the other reviewers I side-eyed the prospect of a reboot. But to tell you the truth deep down I am longing for such an event. And hell am I grateful for this reception! I’ve yet to see the film but feel more eager, more ready than ever after reading this. There’s something immensely satisfying about 2.5D. I enjoyed the trailer for that reason alone. I hold every era of the turtles mythos deep in my heart, but this appears to transcend the cultural barriers of entry while owning the problematic aspects. Brilliant.

    Chases, I look forward to reading more of your work.


    • Like you, I was not particularly fussed about rebootng this, but its easily the best version of the tutles to date. They just get everything right, giving the turtles personality and making it easy to get behind them. Look forward to seeing it!

  2. On a side note, your site has been loading wicked slow recently (I’d say about the last month). I’m not sure if it’s me or if something has changed/broken on your end. Are you aware of any changes?

  3. Good for them. I know the animated cartoon show was a big and lasted a while, so maybe this will help do the same. Live action just doesn’t seem to work out and I think movie producers need to accept that fact and move on.

  4. I saw the first movie, back in 1990 when my son was 3, and really enjoyed it, not seen any of the cartoons or other movies, or even the comics, why sully a good memory? Nope.

  5. I made it halfway through the trailer. That’s something.

    “a kids/family film that’s smarter than most films for adults” Well, at least most films for adults in this enlightened age we live in.

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