Wed | Nov 29, 2023

‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem’ fresh take on classic characters

Published:Monday | August 14, 2023 | 12:06 AMDamian Levy/Gleaner Writer

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The four reptilian rapscallions have been a presence in film and television for decades, and have collected their fair share of tropes along the way. With such history it would be easy for a modern adaptation to phone things in, falling back on the tried-and-true tricks of the characters. Instead, Mutant Mayhem offers up a fresh take on classic characters.

They are still the turtles you know and love, but with some simple effective adjustments. Mutant Mayhem makes a point of hiring teenagers to play teenagers. As obvious a move as that may be, the results are undeniable. Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown Jr, Nicolas Cantu, and Brady Noon bring a camaraderie and a chemistry to Donatello, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Raphael.

While all relative newcomers, the cast is rounded out by some heavy hitters. Ice Cube’s menacing Superfly, and Ayo Edebiri’s passionate April O’Neil being standouts, as well as Jackie Chan’s overprotective Master Splinter. The performances are top-notch, and humour in the script is grounded and relatable. Several characters are mutants with grotesque and eccentric designs, but they couldn’t feel more human.

When it comes to the design, the animation in Mutant Mayhem is a triumph. It’s yet another portrayal of 3D animation with a hand-drawn aesthetic. It further builds on the style with a significant layer of grime. New York City looks and feels filthy, giving way to the film’s darker story beats.

Of course, the Ninja Turtles do get into some action, most of which feels purposeful and exciting. Others feel flashy and an excuse to show off some slick animation. Not that I’m complaining. The action is brought home even further by the film’s bumping soundtrack oozing with timeless ‘80s and ‘90s hip-hop. The turtles themselves may be of a younger generation, but the sound of the movie is a boomer’s paradise.

Mutant Mayhem finds its footing in bridging a generational gap. It’s a mix of old and new ideas that turn into something new entirely. The journey of the turtles and their longing for acceptance culminate with an action-packed climax with heart. Parents and their kids will have plenty to talk over, with material for both to enjoy, and a message that’s built on listening to one another.

Rating: Big Screen Watch

Damian Levy is a film critic and podcaster for Damian Michael Movies.