“You will never find your place in the world by being like everyone else.” - S.C Lourie
Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s we all had our “thing.” Whether it was Game Boy, Transformers or My Little Pony, chances are you had your specific interest. Mine was, among other things, Batman. From the animated series to the action figures and of course the movies, yes even the Schumacher abominations (I was under ten years old, sue me). I loved Batman. But for my brother, born in 1982 (I’m 1989) it was all about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While I enjoyed those lovable, angsty, pubescent reptiles too it was definitely my brother’s thing. I think I was the typical little brother wanting to do whatever it was my older siblings were doing. So naturally our household was riddled with ninja turtles and Batman figurines. We played the video games on the NES, we watched the movies and we had all kinds of ninja turtles centric memorabilia.
We’re going to pretend the Michael Bay produced movies never happened. With that in mind it’s been a long time since we had a viable, feature length adventure with those rogue reptiles of oozy origins. And who would have ever thought Seth Rogen would be the one to bring it back to its former glory? After the bizarreness that has been the last decade or so it would be a safe bet actually. Well believe it because Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is a blast of animated proportions. While the story is a bit basic, a very straight forward tale of hero origins turning into self discovery and then ultimately facing off against the super villain of this particular feature, it still manages to be something pretty great when all of its ingredients are thrown into the pot.
Beyond its story is a plethora of fantastic and uniquely styled animation that creates a welcomed feeling of nostalgia while simultaneously keeping its themes timely and relevant. Perhaps the best aspect is the casting choices made for Raphael, Donatello, Michelangelo and Leonardo. Listen to this - they’re actual kids! Instead of the usual Hollyweird trope of hiring mid-20 something adults trying to pass themselves off as kids, they just went the route they rarely do and just hired age appropriate children to voice the iconic turtles. What a concept! But even as animated characters you can still hear the youth in their voices. The turtles are young, naïve and just learning about the world so it makes more sense to have kids playing kids. Their humorous but honest exchanges with their surrogate father, Master Splinter feel authentic as if it’s genuinely a group of kids talking to or in the case of teenagers, arguing with their parents.
The animation feels hand drawn and in the age of computer generated imagery where it can feel as if so much of the artwork is lost to computer integration this movie is an amazing breath of fresh air. You can feel the human touch intertwined throughout giving it a true, organically generated final product. You can see the pencil lines and the imperfect shading. It’s a style that emits uniqueness yes, but without ever compromising the need to create something visually compelling rather than just being different to simply be different.
Beyond the core four the cast is replete with both Rogen alum and more such as Jackie Chan brilliantly voicing Master Splinter. Ayo Edebiri of The Bear fame voices April O’Neil and brings such a humorous and likable personality to O’Neil. She brings out the true inquisitive nature of an up and coming reporter with a bright future ahead of her. The villain of this story is Superfly, voiced hilariously by Ice Cube, who is somehow evil for sure but also very funny and even relatable as a being on the planet earth who feels alienated and just trying to find their place in the world. Much like the turtles themselves which would explain why they first bond only to discover it’s the way in which they each choose to face their insecurities that separates hero and villain as Superfly aims to destroy mankind forever. As heroes in training, the turtles obviously can’t allow this to pass.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is a lot of fun. It’s perfect for the longtime Ninja Turtle fans and newbies alike. It’s funny, honest and relatable with themes relevant to every person in their youth just beginning to look out of their respective windows (or sewer drains) into a vast and scary world. It shows the importance and safety found within camaraderie especially with those we might otherwise take for granted simply because we see them every day. We can begin to lose sight of what it is they truly bring into our lives that often make this whole living thing just a little more worth it. The animation is beautifully crafted and unique to itself just like the latest animated Spider-Man adventures. Its story is rudimentary but its simplicity allows for all of its strengths to really shine. And as for more adventures to come, this promises a lot more is on its way if we want it.
Rated PG For: sequences of violence and action, language and impolite material
Runtime: 99 minutes
After Credits Scene: Mid-Credits, yes. Nothing at the very end.
Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure
Starring (voice): Nicolas Cantu, Brady Noon, Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown Jr., Jackie Chan, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Ice Cube
Directed By: Jeff Rowe, Kyler Spears
Out of 10
Story: 7.5/ Acting: 8.5/ Directing: 9/ Visuals: 10
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below: