Film critique: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles make a comeback, perhaps even surpassing their previous records

by Michael Nguyen
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

The animated feature, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem,” sports several amusing bits and ingenious twists, but the stroke of genius lies in the choice of Ice Cube to voice Super Fly, the mutant insect antagonist.

The once unlikely choice of the rapper known for “dropping bombs on your moms,” has turned out to be a highlight in a PG-rated children’s film. This is the seventh installation in the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” film saga, not including countless series and video games. The franchise, more often associated with merchandise than pop culture, had reached a point where it needed to innovate or, as Ice Cube would say, “chickity-check yo’ self.”

“Mutant Mayhem,” premiering in theaters this Wednesday, doesn’t completely shake off the sense of rehashing familiar turtle territory. Still, if a return to the slime is inevitable, then this movie, directed by Jeff Rowe (co-director of “The Mitchells vs. the Machines”) and co-penned by co-producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, is likely the cream of a somewhat mediocre crop. It notably focuses on the “teenage” aspect of the turtles’ persona. And, of course, it features Ice Cube as a fly quoting the O’Jays.

The animation is richly detailed, the rhythm is consistently hip-hop (with tracks from Lauryn Hill, De La Soul, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and more in the electronic score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross), and the portrayal of New York is remarkably intricate. The most significant twist in this “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” version might be the exploration of the adolescent nature of the 15-year-old turtles.

Just as “Barbie” balanced Greta Gerwig’s childhood recollections and her grown-up feminism, “Mutant Mayhem” leans more into teenage sensibilities. This is reflected in the raunchy humor and comic book-style animation. Yet, they are also relatable teenagers who watch films (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”), long for concert tickets, and film silly videos of themselves slicing watermelons.

Guided by the experiments of scientist Baxter Stockman (Giancarlo Esposito), the turtles have grown up underground, yearning for the world above, reminiscent of “The Wolfpack.” They get a glimpse of it through high school journalist April O’Neil (Ayo Edebiri), who aims to document their goodwill to humans. Meanwhile, they encounter the charismatic Super Fly (voiced with explosive energy by Ice Cube) and his gang of mutants, who initially seem friendly but have plans to transform all animals into mutants and wipe out humans.

Films like “Into the Spider-Verse” and this year’s “Across the Spider-Verse” may have stolen some of “Mutant Mayhem’s” thunder, with their refreshing take on animation and vibrant soundtracks. However, this “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” installment, while not as polished, has its unique, quirky appeal. It’s more goofy, revolting, and overall enjoyable. The four turtles are often hard to tell apart, but their teenage authenticity shines through. After seven films, it’s about time Donatello, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Raphael experienced a revival.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem,” released by Paramount Pictures, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association for sequences of violence and action, language, and rude material. The film’s duration is 99 minutes and it scores three out of four stars.

Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

What is the new twist in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem”?

The new twist in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” is the exploration of the adolescent nature of its 15-year-old turtles. It’s more focused on the “teenage” part of the turtles’ persona and dives into their adolescent life experiences.

Who is voicing the movie’s villain, Super Fly?

The character of Super Fly, the movie’s mutant insect supervillain, is voiced by renowned rapper, Ice Cube.

Who directed “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem”?

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” is directed by Jeff Rowe, who also co-directed “The Mitchells vs. the Machines”.

What is the movie’s rating and duration?

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem,” released by Paramount Pictures, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association. The film’s duration is 99 minutes.

How many stars did the movie get in the review?

The movie “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” scores three out of four stars in the review.

More about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

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AnimationAddict August 5, 2023 - 6:16 pm

the animation sounds epic. cant wait to see how they’ve detailed New York this time.

OldSchoolRapLover August 5, 2023 - 9:47 pm

ice cube in a kids movie? sounds crazy but hey, i’m kinda intrigued lol.

TurtleFan99 August 6, 2023 - 6:35 am

Wow, Ice Cube as a villain?? Didnt see that comin! Really hope this movies as good as the review says… Turtles for life!!

ChildAtHeart August 6, 2023 - 11:10 am

if they’ve managed to capture the true essence of being a teenager, then I’m all in! always loved the turtles, let’s hope they’ve nailed it this time.

FilmCriticWannabe August 6, 2023 - 11:32 am

seventh film in the series? gotta admit i’ve lost track! But Ice Cube’s casting definitely makes this one interesting…


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