Discover more from Toisto
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is a thrilling adventure film for everyone
★★★★ | Really coming out of their shell
If you’re like me, I’m deeply sorry and understand your pain. But you also were, probably, at some point a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan in your youth.
They were, after all, a behemoth for the early 90s crowd. Between the animated series, movie trilogy, and endless toys, you couldn’t escape them. Which is funny, considering the pizza-loving heroes began as a satire of everything they eventually became.
Now, some 30-odd years later, they’re getting a revival. Another one. I think it’s their fifth by now. Which is because nobody can quite figure out what to do with 4 mutant turtles named after historic Italian thinkers and artists, who fight other mutants and a guy called Shredder, who serves a sentient brain called Krang.
Some have tried to go grimdark, which always felt like missing the point by a country mile. Others went even further into the kid-friendly territory. Those were slightly more successful. But few have struck the balance between scary and funny, whimsical and emotional as Mutant Mayhem.
As revivals go, Mutant Mayhem is a reboot and origin story once again. But unlike a certain other caped crusader with issues keeping their parents alive, this return to the basics doesn’t feel like a chore.
Instead, thanks to smart casting and some much-needed updating, Mutant Mayhem is a joyous mess of energy, ideas, and chaotic fun. It isn’t perfect, and the script is all over the place, but it also doesn’t feel like it matters when everything is this much fun.
Smartly, Mutant Mayhem has all the main cast record their lines in the same room. The result is chaos in the best kind of way. Everyone’s dialog overlaps, the cast stumbles through their quips, and they get references vaguely right. They sound authentic. For the first time in ages, these actually feel like teenagers. Not the Hollywood idea of 30-somethings pretending to be kids.
Set in present day, the Turtles enjoy their life in New York, a vibrant metropolis of life and ridiculous caricatures on every corner. Their father, Splinter (Jackie Chan), forbids them from ever leaving the sewers for anything but the utmost necessities. Should they meet humans, they will surely perish, or worse, be milked.
But as a chance encounter with high school outcast April O’Neill (Ayo Edebiri) forces the trio to act, they find themselves facing down other mutants living in seclusion, and who are far less zen about their situation than Splinter.
While the lessons and ultimate conclusions of the film aren’t a surprise, the way Mutant Mayhem deals with its source material is. It sidesteps the pitfalls of nostalgia and instead focuses on giving a new generation a chance to play with these toys.
Many of the old-school revivals struggle with arrested development, which in turn leads to toxic and baffling attitudes, where grown men argue about the lore of an elaborate toy commercial until they’re red in the face.
Not so here, as Mutant Mayhem is more than happy to let everyone enjoy the lunacy of Peter Laird’s and Kevin Eastman’s creations, which have grown into something far bigger than the black and white graphic novel that spawned them.
For us old fogeys, it’s a reminder of how fun it used to be to play make believe in this universe. To newcomers, it’s a stellar introduction to this world.
It’s a chance for all of us to have fun together with something that we love. What could be better?