Star Rating:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

Director: Jeff Rowe

Actors: Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown Jr, Hannibal Buress, Rose Byrne, John Cena, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Maya Rudolph

Release Date: Friday 4th August 2023

Genre(s): Adventure, Animation, Family

After years of being sheltered from the human world by Splinter (voice of Jackie Chan), the Turtle brothers (voices of Micah Abey, Brady Noon, Shamon Brown Jr., Nicolas Cantu) set out to win the hearts of New Yorkers and be accepted as normal teenagers through heroic acts. Their new friend April O'Neil (voice of Ayo Edibiri) helps them on this journey, but soon get more than they bargained for when they discover a criminal gang of mutants, led by Superfly (voice of Ice Cube) and aided by Bebop and Rocksteady (voices of Seth Rogen and John Cena)...

It goes without saying that, of late anyway, 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' hasn't exactly had a stellar reputation with cinematic audiences. After two disappointing attempts at turning it into a viable live-action vehicle in recent years, not to mention the laughably crap live-action efforts in the early '90s with Vanilla Ice involved somehow, it seemed as though the heroes in the half-shells were going to be kept to animated adventures. Considering this is the best it's been in years, it's impossible to ignore clearly how little the studio executives think of animation that it's taken them this long to give it an honest attempt. The results are, frankly, outstanding.

Much of the charm of 'Mutant Mayhem' comes from its vibrant animation style, influenced no doubt by the likes of 'Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse', but also in its unique and inspired selection of voices. Getting actual teenagers to voice the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a terrific idea, because their enthusiasm and constant cross-talking is utterly infectious. Jackie Chan, a gifted comedic talent, is able to bounce off this as the venerable Master Splinter and then you've got 'The Bear' alum Ayo Edibiri - another gifted comedic talent, one who served time in Second City in fact - as April O'Neil. Ice Cube, in full rage mode, as Superfly is another inspired choice as is having all of Seth Rogen's friends - Paul Rudd, Rose Byrne, Maya Rudolph, John Cena, Hannibal Buress - voice the various members of his mutant criminal gang.

The heavily-improvised dialogue, the constant wisecracks, and the vibrant personality of 'Mutant Mayhem' is in stark contrast to other animated movies of the year. Compared to something like 'Super Mario Bros', you realise how much a voice cast can really make an animated movie pop out of the screen. Where the latter was serviceable for the most part, 'Mutant Mayhem' feels much more alive and deliberate in its execution. You get the sense that people actually worked on this with a level of care and interest, rather than something crafted with simple mercenary interest. Even the music choices feel considered and done with a real sense of finesse. There's an excellent fight sequence set to none other than Blackstreet's 'No Diggity', and needle drops from MF DOOM, Busta Rhymes and A Tribe Called Quest along the way. Even Vanilla Ice's 'Turtle Rap' gets a spin at one point.

Made up of all kinds of tasteful finesse and topped off with a lively voice cast, 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem' is a delicious slice of chewy, gnarly animated action comedy.