Written by: Hannah Tran | August 2nd, 2023
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (Jeff Rowe, 2023) 3 out of 4 stars.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem isn’t the first time we’ve met Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael. They’re the four turtle brothers who were turned into humanoid beings by a mutagen they call “the ooze.” This latest iteration works in a fresh angle to the familiar story, however, emphasizing the “teenage” quarter of their identity.
With a confident style, direction, script, and cast, the film bursts with energy and sincere adoration for its characters. It works on many levels, but none of them would function if it weren’t for the wildly charismatic vocal performances. As the titular brothers, real-life teenagers Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown Jr., Nicolas Cantu, and Brady Noon perfectly capture the spirit of their characters. The choice to have them record their parts all together adds a refreshing liveliness with their overlapping dialogue and natural reactions.
Among an all-around impressive supporting cast, Jackie Chan shines as their adoptive father, Splinter, lending a perfect balance of sadness and sentimentality to the character. The script is hilarious more often than not, and you can feel the way the writing was influenced by the chemistry of its young leads. The comedy is natural and manages to feel off-the-cuff.
Every element works to serve these characters. Their design makes them feel real and human, with the childlike quality of the turtles themselves and the single-dad style of Splinter. The gritty and whimsical look intelligently hearkens back to the doodles in the margins of a school notebook. The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is wonderfully catchy and perfectly used. The soundtrack, which is made up of East Coast hip-hop classics rounds out the turtles’ world with a sweet nostalgia and brings the setting to life.
The only thing that slows these turtles down is the fairly contrived plot. The conversational scenes often feel more interesting than the actual action. Still, the healthy amount of heart found within the characters overcomes the clichés they face. And ultimately, it’s a nice surprise to see how much humanity can be found in a movie about mutant turtles.