Being a millennial means being a product of the pop culture landscape of the 80s and 90s. Clothing, hair, music, television, and movies are embedded in our DNA, giving us nostalgia daily. One factor in that notalgia feeling features four animated turtles always down for a hot pizza serving. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is nothing new, and Hollywood knows this. Many TV shows, comics, and movies have featured the four turtles, but the latest iteration, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, might be the best one since the 1990 version.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, directed by Jeff Rowe, is another “reboot” or “reintroduction” of our four heroes with a slight but much-needed twist. The animated movie features actual teenagers, voices the turtles, and sets the film up for success. Micah Abbey (Donatello), Shamon Brown Jr. (Michelangelo), Nicolas Cantu (Leonardo) Brady Noon (Raphael) have a level of chemistry that the film needs and give off the brotherly love that turtles have been known for.
It can be easy to make four similar characters look different with the minimalist effort to distinguish one from another. However, the four leads in the film have distinct personalities that vibe perfectly with one another. That notion allows the characters to harken back to how we remember the turtles while adding something new to the long line of actors that have played these characters.
I enjoyed the dynamic between Leo, Ralph, Donny, and Mikey in ways that reminded me of my youth. The characteristics of all four flowed perfectly well with the story and how each one developed during their character arcs. It takes some serious acting chops to impress me regarding kid actors, but the performances from Abbey, Brown Jr., Cantu, and Noon showcase that the four might have a promising career in Hollywood. Consequently, the same can be said for Rowe.
Rowe’s first, The Mitchells vs. the Machines, was a grand opening to see what the director was capable of. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem continues that trend and even brings the man’s work to a new level. The animation style resembles Miles Morales’s Spider-Man movies but can still stand independently. There’s a level of CG animation and even some basic sketching that works in the context of the film and allows Rowe’s directing to be utilized in the best way possible.
For example, a fighting montage at the beginning of the 2nd Act showcases the fighting style and turtles and how they dispatch the bad guys. It’s a fantastic scene to watch as the montage intercuts with the movement and action of each turtle that worked perfectly in conjunction with their combat techniques. Rowe understands how our heroes work in sync with one another while still holding their flairs. What really amplifies this scenario and others are the vibrant colors and drawing approach used to bring the world of the movie to life and didn’t strain my eyes.
It’s a new form of CG animation and tracing akin to concept art but cleans up the illustration to make the movie its own thing and pulls it off.
Usually, a sign of a bad script can come in the form of more than three writers – the film features five. That should be a recipe for failure, but Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Jeff Rowe, Dan Hernandez, and Benji Samit knock the writing out of the park. The film shares several Easter Eggs sprinkled throughout the movie that any fan of the TMNT would recognize. The dialogue is not fast but runs at a decent speed, keeping me engaged for the one-hour thirty-nine-minute runtime.
One factor of that engagement is the underlying message of being accepted in a world that doesn’t understand you.
The turtles wish to be part of the world of humans to experience all of the things a typical teenager would. The themes of isolation, family, and acceptance mixed well with the overarching subtext well-telegraphed by the brothers and even Splinter, played by Jackie Chan. The ideas are shown in a comedic light so as not to make the ideas too heavy-handed or depressing. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem wants to display some of those topics but doesn’t forget to have fun with it.
The trailer featuring A Tribe Called Quest’s Can I Kick It? is a perfect way to sell the movie, and what I got didn’t disappoint. The comedy, direction, animated style, and even acting from the impressive line of the cast is a perfect combination of a summer film that everyone should check out. The movie set up a possible sequel, and I’d be surprised if this iteration doesn’t get one. It’s a summer movie ideal for a new generation of fans and something for old-school fans, and that’s what this franchise needs.