Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
by Hope Madden
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been done. A lot. There have been comics, the cartoon series, video games, movies, another animated series, two more movies, another animated series, that Michael Bay movie and its sequel, a fourth cartoon series, another movie and countless toys, plastic digital watches (the coolest!), lunchboxes, tee shirts and assorted whatnot.
So, why bother with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem?
Dude, it’s good.
Seth Rogan and Even Goldberg (together responsible for Superbad, Pineapple Express, This Is the End and Sausage Party) co-write with Jeff Rowe (The Mitchells vs. the Machines – a great movie, and also the only one of these appropriate for children). Their script delights in the silly, childish charm of the 80s series, updated to reflect a modern teenage mutant’s reality.
It’s a fun vibe that’s pulled through the animation and performances, thanks in part to Rowe, who co-directed Mitchells v Machines, again co-directing, this time with Kyler Spears.
A messy, anarchic animation style delivers on the promise of the outsider theme and especially impresses in 3D. Somehow simultaneously creepy, jubilant and cool, the look is like no other piece of animation to be seen on the big screen.
The voice talent delivers as well. Veterans include Jackie Chan as lonesome, overprotective Splinter and Ice Cube, pitch perfect as badass super villain Superfly. His posse boasts a star-studded voice cast: Rose Byrne, John Cena, Rogan, Paul Rudd, Maya Rudolph. All bring the goods, but Rudd and Byrne are the most fun.
The core four – Nicolas Cantu as Leonardo, Micah Abbey as Donatello, Shamon Brown Jr. as Michelangelo and Brady Noon as Raphael – provide infectious charm and mayhem. Ayo Edebiri, so funny in this summer’s Theater Camp, gives April a natural humor and awkward grace.
The best way to reinvent a beloved, nostalgic brand is to hire people who loved it in the first place. If they know comedy and animation, all the better. Rogan and Goldberg bring the sophomoric but undeniable wit they always do, and Lowe channels that into something inventive, giddy and family-friendly.