The turtles are back for another animated film, this time coming from the minds behind Superbad. Just like that film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem plays around with growing up and what it means to be a teenager. It does so with one of the most inventive-looking animation styles this side of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Luckily for everyone out there, this isn’t a soulless take on the turtles like previous movies have tried. This was made by people who love the characters. Plenty of work went in that shows how they interact with one another and the world they’re inhabiting. Starting off, we get a quick introduction to how the turtles became the “mutants” they are. It’s not the typical superhero/monster origin because it glosses over several details. It’s enough to remind longtime fans and get people who have never seen a Ninja Turtles movie invested.

The interesting thing about the Turtles in this film is that the voice actors they picked are all relatively unknown actors. Nicolas Cantu (Leonardo), Brady Noon (Raphael), Micah Abbey (Donatello), and Shamon Brown Jr. (Michaelangelo) are joined by an all-star voice cast around them. The newcomers perform even better than their star-studded castmates. The four of them fill their characters with emotion and hilarity when it’s needed. It might be animated, but these feel like a group of teenage boys hanging out and messing around.

Joining them are Jackie Chan (Master Splinter), Ayo Edibiri (April O’Neil), Ice Cube (Superfly), John Cena (Rocksteady), Seth Rogen (Bebop), Rose Byrne (Leatherhead), Paul Rudd (Mondo Gecko), Giancarlo Esposito (Baxter Stockman), Maya Rudolph (Cynthia Utrom), Hannibal Buress (Genghis Frog), Natasia Demetriou (Wingnut), and Post Malone (Ray Fillet). Co-directors Jeff Rowe and Kyler Spears guide the film.

Heroes In A Half-Shell

The film goes through themes that we all can relate to. The Turtles want to grow up and be just like the humans outside. They see the world and want to explore it. They also want to do seemingly mundane things like go to high school and have more friends. Master Splinter forbids them from seeing humans at all, and it builds some nice parallels with the villain, Superfly. Superfly wants to create a machine that turns all animals into mutants and enslave, kill off, or do whatever with the rest of the human race. Splinter is anti-human because they reacted poorly the one time he brought the turtles and himself out to New York.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is hilarious with references to pop culture old and new. Dads taking their kids to see their childhood favorite will love some of the jokes, and others will go completely over the head of newer generations. It’s a perfect blend of humor. Some of the references don’t seem like they’ll age well, but time will tell on that.

Screenwriters Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Jeff Rowe, Dan Hernandez, and Benji Samit all sculpt a story that’s pretty simple, but gets the job done. The third act is thrilling and features some really nice crowd-pleasing moments. Another highlight is the soundtrack with, once again, some old classics mixed with new tracks that fit the vibes of the movie.

Take Your Kids, Love It Turtles Fans

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem sets a new bar for Turtles movies. It captures the essence of what long-time fans love about the characters but gives them plenty of new wrinkles for younger and first-time fans seeing the film. The animation style is vibrant and pops off the screen. It’s like a trippy surrealist painting at times, but it all blends together for the best Ninja Turtles movie so-far.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem releases in theaters on August 2nd, 2023.

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