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‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem’: A Strong Exploration of Family

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is another stylish, sophisticated entry in the pantheon of theatrical animation. A well-rounded family film with gorgeous visuals and relatable characters, Mutant Mayhem more than lives up to its name with plenty of mutant animal action to entertain viewers of all ages!

Directed by Jeff Rowe and Kyler Spears, the screenplay was also co-written by Rowe with Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg

Comparing the animation style with other recent films

First and foremost, the animation style of Mutant Mayhem has received much attention in the media. People have been comparing it to the 2D, shaded illustration style of films like Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. So how does the animation stack up to those excellent examples?

In my opinion, TMNT had the best animation style of the three. I’m not the biggest fan of the style in general. There’s often too much going on for me. It’s actually a struggle for me to see the Spider-Verse films in theaters because my brain is fried by how much is happening at once, with my head and eyes always hurting by the end. I didn’t experience that with Puss in Boots and quite liked the style there, but that film’s animation had a looser, almost dreamier quality that TMNT doesn’t. 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles meet April O’Neil (Ayo Edebiri) (Paramount)

Mutant Mayhem was the first time I truly loved this animation style and found myself wishing it would become the new standard. The combination of 3D lighting and shading with the 2D sketched style was excellent throughout the film and really brought the environments and characters to life. The action scenes weren’t as stylistic as other recent animated films, but I found the animation here to be a refreshing look that finally struck the perfect balance. 

The biggest strengths of Mutant Mayhem

The characters are absolutely the standout of this film, helped by the strong voice acting across the board.  Viewers will instantly love all four teenage turtles, their father Splinter (voiced by Jackie Chan), and their human ally April O’Neil (Ayo Edebiri). The family relationship between the Turtles and Splinter really shines. Surprisingly, the rat is an excellent depiction of a father figure whose own trauma places a burden on his sons. Despite that, Splinter clearly shows affection for them and always tries his best. 

The Turtles themselves, voiced by Nicolas Cantu, Brady Noon, Micah Abbey, and Shamon Brown, Jr.,  have the perfect brotherly bond, bickering like kids who have spent their whole lives together. That’s another perfect aspect of this film – the humor. Every joke landed and I was surprised at how hilarious the Turtles were when they were just being themselves. When adults write teenage dialogue, it can often feel stilted or out of touch. That wasn’t the case at all here! In fact, the young voice actors must have improvised some lines because many of them are simply effortless. 

Ayo Edebiri’s April brought some great energy to the Turtles’ group dynamic and helps expand their worldview. I also loved the other mutant characters, who were unexpectedly well-characterized despite their limited roles. Paul Rudd’s Mondo Gecko was a hilarious standout!

Mutants in TMNT Mutant Mayhem
Superfly’s mutant family in ‘Mutant Mayhem’ (Paramount)

Ice Cube’s Superfly was more than a standard, cardboard cutout villain. He didn’t break any barriers but the comparisons explored between him and Splinter brought an interesting dimension to the two separate mutant groups.

Mutant Mayhem’s slight weaknesses

While I didn’t dislike anything about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, the film does fall into familiar tropes at certain points. The third act of the film felt awkwardly paced with a couple false starts before the real final battle, which felt a bit underdeveloped as a result of the set pieces occurring right beforehand. 

While the theme of family holding each other back due to fear of the unknown was explored well, the film’s resolution felt a little too easy. It seems like there were emotional moments in the third act left on the cutting room floor in favor of providing a quicker resolution to the story, particularly during a big moment with April towards the end. That being said, the movie does stick the landing. It just feels like it could have hit harder, especially considering the nuance on display throughout the rest of the film. 

TMNT
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in ‘Mutant Mayhem’ (Paramount)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is worth watching in theaters

The animation and character work in the film are pitch-perfect, with a thematically strong story that resonates despite a slightly simple ending. It’s definitely worth watching in theaters whether you’re a big TMNT fan or like going to see movies just for fun. The film is a hilariously entertaining moviegoing experience that will have you laughing out loud with characters you’ll instantly adore!

My rating for this film:

★★★★½/ ♥♥♥♥½

 

As someone who isn’t a major TMNT fan, I knew of these characters in passing but didn’t know what to expect from the film. I was happy to find it very accessible for a newcomer like myself, and I’m certainly interested in seeing a sequel after that mid-credits tease!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is now in theaters .  Are you going to check it out this weekend? Let us know on social media or The Cosmic Circus Discord!

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Uday Kataria

Hi! I'm a huge Marvel, DC, and LEGO fan. I run my own YouTube channel (GoldenNinja3000) and write/host podcasts for The Cosmic Circus. I also created and produced the LEGO Ninjago short film "Golden Hour".

Uday Kataria has 78 posts and counting. See all posts by Uday Kataria