Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is the newest animated movie to hit theaters from Paramount Studios and Nickelodeon Movies. Mutant Mayhem spawns a new generation of TMNT movies, capitalizing on its own extended universe to potentially create a new wave of interest in the property. Combining heavy influences from its contemporaries, Mutant Mayhem hoped to chisel a new pocket in the flourishing animated genre.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem does just enough to get by, relying on innocent jokes and beautiful art style to win viewers over. While maybe not the overwhelming achievement like the Spider-Verse movies or The Mitchells vs. The Machines (two Sony properties that feel like huge inspirations for this picture), Mutant Mayhem finds its own space by delivering to fans longing for a reimagining of this universe.
But with that comes a barrier for outsiders. Mutant Mayhem isn’t the easiest to get into if you aren’t familiar with the source material. I went in mostly interested in the animation. I thought the trailers did a particularly good job displaying the intense design of the world – crafting a vision through thin air, and thus a new world in the process.
And if you play A Tribe Called Quest’s Can I Kick It? during your advertising campaign, you’ll surely get at least one more moviegoer because I’m then obligated to attend a screening at some point. Needless to say, I was cautiously optimistic that Mutant Mayhem could be one of the next big animated hits for movie theaters.
Yet the reception for Mutant Mayhem has been rather mixed. From lukewarm box office results to a similar word of mouth, everyone seems to be excited that Mutant Mayhem is a new direction for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lineage, but the execution is a bit off. It feels less like a singular story and experience than the inspirations that I listed above.
Reviews for Films like TMNT: Mutant Mayhem (2023)
For a movie centered on a story of family and close ties between the four ninja turtles, Mutant Mayhem goes to great lengths to introduce characters from deep into the lore. It uses the same template as superhero movies to build to a grand finale – rather than digging deeper into characters, they expand wider and introduce more of them. This same template goes as far as the mid-credit scene, where TMNT goes full Avengers to set itself up for the inevitable sequel.
Mutant Mayhem tries to microwave an expansive story in such a short runtime. The buildup doesn’t feel as rewarding or earned when you’ve spent such little time in this world. Instead of slow cooking many of the ideas and aspirations for the story, they go out guns blazing in a forceful (and slightly awkward) manner. They tried to cram multiple movies into one, and you can feel it in the pacing.
There’s still a lot of toxic green fun coursing through the veins of Mutant Mayhem, from ongoing gags that generally worked for me, to a cast of eclectic and odd voices that I wouldn’t have expected to lead a TMNT animated picture. Ayo Edebiri continues to be the best actress in anything she’s in, voicing April O’Neil. The Turtles (voiced by Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown Jr., Nicolas Cantu, and Brady Noon) all have distinct traits, it’s just a shame we don’t spend enough time getting to develop them into meaningful characters moving forward.
Instead, Mutant Mayhem shows off a gauntlet of side characters, from Rocksteady and Bebop (John Cena and Seth Rogen) to Leatherhead (Rose Byrne). It’s all fun and games, but it amounts to zilch in the grand scheme of things. They mostly serve to offer many of the movie’s best gag lines. I particularly loved Paul Rudd’s Mondo Gecko and Hannibal Buress’ Genghis Frog.
Perhaps my expectations exceeded what I thought worked in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. It’s a breezy time at the movies. There’s still some hope that the second installment outdoes the first because there’s plenty more to explore moving forward. As long as they stop to breathe intermittently and refocus on the characters that matter most.
Watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem on Paramount+ and VOD
TMNT: Mutant Mayhem Movie Cast and Crew
Micah Abbey as Donatello
Shamon Brown Jr. as Michaelangelo
Nicolas Cantu as Leonardo
Brady Noon as Raphael
Ayo Edebiri as April O’Neil
Maya Rudolph as Cynthia Utrom
John Cena as Rocksteady
Seth Rogen as Bebop
Rose Byrne as Leatherhead
Natasia Demetriou as Wingnut
Giancarlo Esposito as Baxter Stockman
Jackie Chan as Splinter
Ice Cube as Superfly
Paul Rudd as Mondo Gecko
Post Malone as Ray Fillet
Hannibal Buress as Genghis Frog
Director: Jeff Rowe
Cinematography: Kent Seki
Editor: Greg Levitan
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