Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem reintroduces our heroes in a half-shell back onto the silver screen after being absent for several years after Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows bombed at the box office in 2016. Unsurprisingly, Mutant Mayhem focuses on four heroes we all know and love. Leo, Donnie, Mikey, and Raph are all at the center here. What sets this movie apart from any other adaptation is that they’re all wonderfully portrayed as teenagers because actual teenagers are voicing these characters.

Every bit of dialogue is infused with this teenage energy that you can only get from 15-year-olds and it was a smart decision on Paramount’s part in hiring teenagers to voice these characters, something that is nearly unheard of.

Mutant Mayhem as a Sort-Of Reboot

Narratively, Mutant Mayhem isn’t your typical origin story, though, with rebooting a popular franchise, how do you tell something that’s been done multiple times but still make it new and fresh for the audience? Overall, Rogen, Rowe, O’Brien, and Goldberg do a great job with what they give us. It’s a story that basically features a checklist of things one must have in a TMNT story. Sewer-dwelling teenage boys? Check. Longing to be on the surface world, but afraid of being labeled as different? Check. Crime-fighting adventures? Check.

Mutant Mayhem is a coming-of-age movie and it has a lot of heart behind it. At the end of the day, every good Turtle tale is about family and that’s just what this movie is about. Along with this story, we get a very gorgeous art style that is unique but almost similar to what we have seen in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse films. I must admit, I was taken aback by the decision of this art style, but after watching the movie and watching an interview with Rogen and the team, they mentioned how they wanted the animation to echo that this movie is through the perspective of teenagers. Characters and the city of NYC look askew because they’re designed to and after learning that, as a kid that doodled in the corners of notebooks a lot, I grew a new fondness for this movie.

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The Cast Stands Out and Delivers Big

Splinter voiced by Jackie Chan in Mutant Mayhem.

It’s impossible to not mention Jackie Chan as the voice behind Splinter and that’s the best casting for this character. This version of Splinter is a little different than any we’ve seen before. He’s much more of a recluse that has this hatred for the surface world. Also, in previous versions, Splinter is either the mutated version of Hamato Yoshi or the mutated pet rat of Hamato Yoshi, in Mutant Mayhem, Splinter is just a mutated rat that found the turtles crawling around in TCRI ooze. Splinter definitely gets his own time to shine in this movie and I’m willing to bet that Jackie Chan likely had a hand in the fight scenes he’s in, because they’re just pure Jackie Chan fight sequences and I love every bit of it.

I also love the flashback sequence that shows Splinter watching old Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies to teach the boys self-defense. That’s one thing that will annoy some people, including me. In this version, not only is Splinter just a mutated rat but he doesn’t know any martial arts, so he teaches the boys by imitating what he sees on TV which honestly, coming from a guy that grew up with Mortal Kombat and watching Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and TMNT as a kid, what kid didn’t imitate what they saw on TV? It makes sense, but it’s so different that as a fan of the old cartoons, you have to get used to changes no matter if you like them or not.

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April O'Neil stands in front of Leo, Donnie, Raph, and Mikey in Mutant Mayhem.

April O’Neil is in this movie voiced by Ayo Edebiri and in this incarnation she is a fellow teenager that has social anxiety but dreams of being a journalist one day. Now, I know that this isn’t the only form of media where April is a teenager, in a couple of the cartoons, she’s been a teenager, but I always thought that having April as an adult was a nice dynamic to the teenage attitude the Turtles brought to the table. Though, I don’t recall if her age is exactly mentioned in this movie, but she could easily be aged up in the sequel and be in her early 20s and starting her journalism career.

A Lot to Love For Ninja Turtles Fans

Mutant Mayhem features a plethora of well-known characters from TMNT lore. We have Superfly, Mondo Gecko, Bebop and Rocksteady, Scumbug, Genghis Frog, Leatherhead, and a few others rounding out the cast for the villains. We even get Giancarlo Esposito as Baxter Stockman which honestly I was thrilled to see his name attached to this movie. In nearly every movie Esposito is in, he nails it. Though I have to say, his inclusion in this movie as Baxter Stockman was wasted potential. Baxter Stockman is in the movie for the first ten minutes or so and it was one of the most disappointing parts of this movie for me.

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Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. From a narrative standpoint, the main plot is a little weak. After all, it’s another movie where a villain shoots a beam into the sky to turn the citizens of NYC into creatures or insects. Thank you to The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) for giving Hollywood that plot point, but to overlook that, we got four brothers learning what it means to have a family and each other. Which is a tale that is at the heart of every TMNT story.

Stunning voice cast
Superb animation
Fun movie for the family
A great addition to the TMNT roster
Wasted potential with Baxter Stockman
Another movie about a villain turning citizens into bugs/creatures

Review Summary

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is a fun adventure that puts crime-fighting reptiles back on the big screen. Even with a weak overall narrative, there’s a lot of heart at its core that is perfect for any fan of our heroes in a half-shell.

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