Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem Is Cool Enjoyment for a Hot Summer

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is funny, gross, and sweet; a picture children and adults will enjoy. It reminds me of the recent Transformers film that taps that sweet spot between kid-friendly and nostalgic, especially with its impressive soundtrack. In this, the young turtle crew and their parent face familiar growing pangs. They desire to experience life outside the sewers, while their parent wants to protect them from dangerous humans. As a kid-friendly flick, the movie gets right to the point, doesn't bloat the time, and makes it fun and hip with an animation style.

Directed by Jeff Stowe and Kyler Spears and written by Rowe, Seth Rogen, and Evan Golding, the opening of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem has an entire squad of armed company muscle in the back of a truck. They aim to hunt down a rogue doctor, Baxter Stockman (Giancarlo Esposito). They have to nab him and his creation. After things go awry, the story jumps forward to the turtles discussing the supplies they need to steal and return to the sewers. 

Strait-laced Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu) tries to lead the others. Donnie (Micah Abbey) is bright and an avid Attack on Titan fan. Mikey (Shamon Brown Jr.) is more at home with the skateboarder crowd, and Rafe (Brady Noon) is gung-ho about fighting. But all of them pine to go out into the world. There are a lot of references to music and shows like Beyonce and Attack on Titan, showing the teens' awareness of the world above them. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem packs plenty of familiar names, shows, and songs for viewers of all ages, cementing the audience's connection and attention. 

Recognizable Voices Round Out a Cast That Nails Fast-Paced Humor

The cast is wonderful. I did not realize that Jackie Chan voiced their father, Splinter. His responses and storytelling are hilarious. Their relationship with him is the heart of the story, and both kids and adults will recognize parents who shutter their children from the world based on their experiences. The cast that make up the teen turtles, Nicolas Cantu, Shamon Brown Jr., Brady Noon, and Micah Abbey, hit that speed repartee that I love in older films, including 1951’s The Thing.

When April (Ayo Edibiri) meets the team, there's the awkward, recognizable ribbing between siblings when one has a crush. Ayo is perfect as April. Her role in The Bear shows she can handle awkward, funny scenes. Ice Cube's voice is easily recognizable as it's so distinct. You hear his voice in other films like Friday and 21 Jump Street. Paul Rudd as Mondo, John Cena as Rocksteady, and Rose Byrne as Leatherhead all nail the comedy. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem explores themes that resonate with adults and kids so everyone can enjoy it. 

Underlying Quest for Finding Your Crew

It starts with Dr. Stockman transforming animals and bugs because he never felt at home around humans. That theme is a thread running through the entire film. Bad experiences can change a person for the worse, and in the case of many, aside from the turtles, it does. But they're not wrong with their fear and anger toward humans either. There's a moment when the turtles ask April if the world will accept them, and she flat out says “no.” The delivery in the scene makes audiences laugh, but she's also correct. 

People fear what or who they do not know, especially when they are older. The unknown morphs into something terrifying as adults, and it is no longer something to explore the way many experience the world as kids. Nor is Splinter or the villains wrong in their responses based on their experiences, but they do not touch on that as much. 

Outstanding Soundtrack

There are current tracks for the younger generation in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, like “Wake Up in the Sky” by Gucci Mane. But there are plenty of songs from the 90s, like “No Diggety” from Blackstreet, “Can I Kick It?” from A Tribe Called Quest, and “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” from Ol' Dirty Bastard. While talking about community, the film fosters community in the communal experience of viewing films in theaters. You hear audience members reciting the lyrics word-for-word when these songs come on—I'm guilty of it too. The movie knowingly makes the film a theater experience. 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is not solely a kids' film. Sure, it has gross moments that are definitely for kids, like vomit humor, and the larger theme resolution is too pat. But they went out of their way to make it something viewers of all ages could enjoy. The soundtrack, voice cast, and comedic beats tap into humor across the age spectrum. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is an all-around bop, and you don't need kids to have fun. 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem crashes into theaters August 2.

Rating: 8/10 SPECS

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