Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
MOVIE | A reboot of the half-shell heroes boasts kinetic animation and a lively cast while playing gross-out humor for laughs
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In 1983, comics creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird pondered what it would look like for the slowest animal to embody a role known for speed. This thought experiment gave birth to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Forty years later, these heroes in a half shell have become cultural icons, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem continues to revel in the absurd as it reboots the franchise.
Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu), Michelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr.), Donatello (Micah Abbey), and Raphael (Brady Noon) live in the sewers with their adoptive father, an aged rat named Splinter (Jackie Chan). Splinter teaches his turtle sons martial arts using scavenged instructional videotapes because he’s scared of the world above.
But the brothers think that if they can prove they’re heroes, humans will accept them. They set off to defeat a mysterious villain known only as Superfly but discover Superfly (Ice Cube) is actually a giant mutated fly. They thought they were the only mutants. Should they help the humans who fear them or the mutants who welcome them?
Mutant Mayhem is mostly family friendly, but Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s script pushes the boundaries of good taste. The movie gets its PG rating for martial arts action, mild language, and gross-out humor.
Having real teenagers play the turtles was a good move, and the supporting cast also brings spirit and levity. But the kinetic animation might be Mutant Mayhem’s best quality. Its style is reminiscent of notebook sketches and sidewalk chalk, paying homage to the grittiness of Eastman and Laird’s earliest comics while embracing the sillier aspects of the turtles’ legacy.