To say Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is the best TMNT film yet, you have to consider the bar isn’t exactly that high to begin with. As beloved as the 1990 film may be, it’s a bit of a slog to sit through now. Watching our favorite half-shelled heroes sit around working mechanics on a ranch doesn’t exactly scream cowabunga. However, watching them come to stunning animated life — like a sketchbook gone wild on the big screen — is a work of awe.
Seth Rogen may not be the first person who comes to mind when thinking of who could reboot the series, but he was definitely the best choice. Having the director of Netflix/Sony’s The Mitchell’s vs. the Machines doesn’t hurt either. Their love for the Turtles shines through in every frame. Radical, tubular, gnarly, only a healthy dose of ’80s slang can do justice to how good it is. Or, I could just call it the Into the Spider-Verse of the series, because that’s exactly what it is.
Fifteen years ago, Cynthia Utrom (voiced by Maya Rudolph) orders a hit to take rogue scientist Baxter Stockman (voiced by Giancarlo Esposito). Utrom wants Stockman’s mutagen being used to create a mutant family, but an explosion leaves Stockman dead with his favorite housefly experiment left behind and a vial of mutagen falling into the sewers of New York City. In the present, Michelangelo (voiced by Shamon Brown Jr.), Raphael (voiced by Brady Noon), Donatello (voiced by Micah Abbey), and Leonardo (voiced by Nicolas Cantu) are living a secluded life with their rat father, Splinter (voiced by Jackie Chan).
Just wanting a normal life above ground, with Splinter keeping them hidden, fate comes calling when they save April O’Neil (voiced by Ayo Edebiri) from a gang who happen to be working for the mysterious “Superfly” (voiced by Ice Cube). What they soon learn is he’s building a machine with nefarious plans up his sleeves. Now, they must find a way to stop Superfly, who happens to have his own mutant gang: Genghis Frog (voiced by Hannibal Buress), Leatherhead (voiced by Rose Byrne), Wingnut (voiced by Natasia Demetriou), Ray Fillet (voiced by Post Malone) Mondo Gecko (voiced by Paul Rudd), along with Bebop (voiced by Rogen) and Rocksteady (voiced by John Cena).
How good is Mutant Mayhem? It’s so good, I took my daughter back to the second press screening because we both loved it so much. Maybe it made me biased, but being able to share in the sheer joy of watching something so beautifully generational finally give all of us the TMNT film we’ve been waiting for just makes it that much more special. Packed with some of the most mesmerizing animation this side of the Spider-Verse, a blisteringly ’80s-infused score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and more Easter eggs than you can keep track of, this is the real deal from start to finish. There’s also a mid-credit scene that you won’t want to miss.
Some may take issue with a few of the creative choices, but there are plenty others made that take the film right back to its Kevin Eastman/Peter Laird independent comic roots. The cast are all hilarious, while getting their chances to crack amazing jokes, some even at their own expense. The MVP being Chan as Splinter, who thankfully wasn’t a case of stunt casting with Splinter getting his own big Chan-inspired fight scene. There’s really not much else to say except that after 39 years, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem finally gives our heroes in a half shell the big screen treatment they’ve deserved all along and I can’t wait for the announced sequel and Nickelodeon series. Turtle power!