Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem Review – Shell Smashing Fun

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| September 24, 2023

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been a household name for decades. Starting as a comic book series created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird in the 80’s, the turtles have been around the block a few times. These mutant turtles have constantly reinvented themselves over the years, appealing to numerous groups of children and adults. They’ve also been in nearly every form of media, such as TV shows, comics, video games, toys, and movies. The turtles have seen their share of good (TMNT 2007) and bad (those early live-action ones) movies.

After the controversial Michael Bay films and the well-received Rise of the TMNT film, the turtles have been rebooted once again with the new film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. This is the turtles for the next generation, filled with references that’ll confuse anyone born before 2008 (fuck I’m getting old). These new versions of the turtles are an absolute joy to watch. They will even help you overlook the average plot and the sometimes ugly animation.

They’re Actually Teenagers This Time

Raphael, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Leonardo are standing on a rooftop, eating pizza. Donatello is on his phone, and all of them look confused
Just brothers eating some pizza. (Nickelodeon)

Leading up to the film’s release, I was skeptical about this new version of the turtles. I’m happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised with this new take on these classic characters. The turtles are the best characters in the film, and it’s not even close. Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu), Raphael (Brady Noon), Donatello (Micah Abbey), and Michelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr.) are phenomenal. Their banter feels authentic and believable for modern-day teenagers. The banter between the brothers is hilarious, causing me to laugh multiple times throughout the 90-minute run time.

They each have classic defining characteristics, such as Leo being the leader, Raph being the hot head, Donnie being the smart one, and Mikey being the clown. We see them come into their own and slowly but surely become the turtles we know and love. The turtles are so amazing; they overshadowed every other character in the film for me. That’s not to say every other character sucked because I did enjoy April (Ayo Edebiri) and the small appearance of Baxter Stockman (Giancarlo Esposito); the turtles just stole the show. It’s a shame that the story didn’t reach that same level.

A Story of Mutants and Family

The turtles have their weapons drawn as they are coming through blue doors. They all have a serious look on their faces.
Time to smash some shells. (Nickelodeon)

Mutant Mayhem serves as a new origin story for the turtles, and it’s a little different from previous reboots. This plot revolves around the turtles’ desire to be accepted by the human world and have a typical teenage experience. With the help of a new friend in April O’Neil, the brothers aim to get the people of New York to accept them. But the brothers might get overwhelmed when mutant-related crimes keep popping up. Throw in a shady government agency and a concerned father, and you have the premise of Mutant Mayhem.

I enjoyed this story for what it was. It was nothing ground-breaking but enjoyable enough that I didn’t get bored halfway through. I could guess the story beats long before they happened, but I still got some surprises with how they were executed (like the whole milking joke. You have to see it to believe it). This story allowed for many interactions and banter between the turtles, which saved the story a bit for me. I did have two significant gripes, though, with the main villain and Splinter. The main villain, Superfly (Ice Cube), was intimidating enough when he went up against the turtles, but I forgot he existed when he wasn’t on screen. I also wasn’t a fan of this new version of Splinter (Jackie Chan). Maybe it’s my nostalgia, but when I think of Splinter, I think of a wise martial arts master, not a funny dad. It probably didn’t help that I did not like some of the new designs.

Unique Isn’t Always Better

Two people are looking confused at something out of frame. The one to the right has a red shirt and trucker hat. The larger one to the left is wearing a jacket and eating some chips.
They look worse than the mutants. (Nickelodeon)

After Into The Spider-Verse showed us the versatility of 2D animation in the modern age, every other studio and their uncle have been trying to mimic their style. Mutant Mayhem is no exception, but I think they miss the mark slightly. Instead of incorporating the art style into the film and using it to flesh out the action, world, and characters, they use it as a simple design choice. It still looks decent, but I felt they only went this route because of Spider-Man’s success. The only time I could say the animation was great was in the fight scenes with the turtles, but that only happens once or twice. It’s not terrible, but it never reaches the same heights as Spider-Man.

Speaking of terrible, the human designs in this film are gross. I don’t know if they wanted to make all the humans look disgusting or if they were just a casualty of the art style, but I did not like how any of the humans looked (except for Apri; her design was cool). Also, I was not too fond of the new design for Splinter. I already mentioned that I wasn’t a massive fan of Splinter’s personality, and the design contributed to that. The long eyebrows and stocky appearance didn’t vibe with me. On the other hand, I loved how the turtles looked. They were the best characters to watch and most likely where most of the animation budget went.

Splinter is sitting in a chair. He has a suspicious look on his face. A cup of coffee is to his right.
What is with those eyebrows? (Nickelodeon)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem was an enjoyable ride. These new incarnations of the turtles are a joy to watch and had me laughing multiple times throughout the film. While the story was not as engaging as I would’ve liked, and I downright hated a few character design choices, I still had a good time. After that post-credit scene, I hope we do get a sequel. And maybe, just maybe, we can get more humans that don’t look like a Picasso painting.

 I give Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem a 7/10.

Have you seen Mutant Mayhem? What did you think? Which turtle was your favorite? Let us know in the comments where we can talk about our favorite versions of the turtles (it’s the 2003 version).

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One comment on “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem Review – Shell Smashing Fun”

  1. Basically agree. I love TMNT stuff and enjoyed it but the Gen Z humor, over reliance on references and some of the designs were a negative.

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