New York or Nah?: ‘TMNT: Mutant Mayhem’ Review

Homies in a Half Shell
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is bringing back the heroes in a half-shell in a big way. Whether you’ve seen the many (many) ads, were a huge fan from back in the day, or are a new fan there’s something here for you. When I tell you the franchise is in good hands, it looks like these Renaissance-named ninjas are about to be around for a good long while.

Another One

Mutant Mayhem
April O’Neil (The Bear’s Ayo Edebiri) schools the turtles on…High school. Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

I know that you know that everyone knows audiences are drowning in rehashed IPs. It’s as if there are no original ideas out there being produced (unless you look outside the big studios and focus on smaller indie or ethical studios like A24 who have already chosen to honor the demands set by the WGA & SAG-AFTRA strike). Despite the numerous sequels, spinoffs, and prequels, Mutant Mayhem delivers one hell of a reboot. Mind you, TMNT started as a comic book in 1984, then was an animated show in 1987, then the first movie in 1990. You can Google the rest of the numerous cartoons, newer comics, crossovers, video games, etc., and see the long legacy of the franchise. That said, this might be the best Turtles property so far.

Iconic Turtles Are Back

Mutant Mayhem is a dope return to form for the Ninja Turtles IP, the archetypes are so wonderfully modernized and terribly cute. Everything from the OG 80s comic is here in this movie. Gritty New York City? Check. Alienated high school-aged mutants living in the shadows? Check. A Black April O’Neil? Check.

Drippy Turtles
(Left to right): Micah Abbey, Nicolas Cantu, Shamon Brown Jr., and Brady Noon via Instagram @MicahAbbey

What Mutant Mayhem brings to the table that sets it apart is what feels like the most genuine comradery the Turtle brothers have ever had across all of media. The way the core cast (Micah Abbey as Donatello, Shamon Brown Jr. as Michaelangelo, Nicolas Cantu as Leonardo, and Brady Noon as Raphael) clicks is almost uncanny. It really feels like these young actors were recording a slice-of-life anime of any given Thursday with high school freshmen. They are a vibe, and it makes the whole movie so effortless and fun to watch.

Authentic NYC Or Nah?

There is a level of authenticity that drives this whole thing; it’s irrevocably and unmistakably NYC. From the cultural references, the acting, the art style, the music – the whole aesthetic feels cohesive. It almost felt as though one was looking through a New York-tinted lens. If you’re from the tri-state area, it’s gonna hit different.

The ‘imperfect’ art design is a stroke of genius. All of the asymmetries work right into the ‘teenage’ feel of the movie. Despite utilizing the same ‘dropped frames’ sketchbook animation effect made popular by the Spider-Verse movies, Mutant Mayhem manages to stand on its own. From the cityscape to the characters, the look just screams dystopian urban landscape and that was always the vision TMNT creators Kevin Eastman (easter egg hidden in the name of April’s school) and Peter Laird (easter egg in the neon sign where the turtles and April meet) had in mind. But Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in any of its forms is always a coming-of-age story. And coming-of-age these days looks a lot like this:

Dramatic poses on NYC rooftops on their classic TMNT comic book flow! Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

It is not lost on any real New Yorker that there’s an entirely improvised scene in the movie where the turtles start talking wild reckless in the vein of the homegrown Instagram sensation Sidetalk NYC. When the Ninja Turtles are talking about bacon, egg, and cheeses with puffer coats and Timbs – that just warmed my jaded, Bronx-raised heart. Or furthermore that the god of Chopped Cheeses made ‘the Ocky way’ gets a sponsored ad on Tik-Tok making a TMNT-themed bacon egg and cheese on a pizza?!? Can’t forget the bev (never, never, never). Oh nah, somebody did their homework, and east coast audiences are going to be so hyped.


TMNT Bacon, Egg and Cheese THE OCKY WAY 🍕🐢 Watch the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: #MutantMayhem Only In Theatres August 2nd #ParamountPartner @ninjaswhoareturtles @Paramount Pictures

♬ original sound – General ock
The most New York shit ever, General Ock with the TMNT bacon, egg, and cheese…The Ocky Way!

What Ever Happened To…

Part of what makes Mutant Mayhem so entertaining is the stellar cast. Having Ice Cube and Paul Rudd in a movie together is something only Seth Rogen might be able to do. However, for the last fifteen years or so the lion’s share of animated flicks have used actors with big names to draw audiences into theatres. As a result, a lot of our favorite voice actors have been relegated to supporting roles or background work. Unfortunately, the success of yet another animated cluster of Hollywood talent will only reinforce that going forward. Perhaps after the strike, they’ll be some leverage for voice-centric actors to return to prominence.

Mutant Mayhem
Hannibal Burress (Genghis Frog), Rose Byrne (Leatherhead), Seth Rogen (Bebop), Ice Cube (Superfly), John Cena (Rocksteady), Post Malone (Ray Filet), (above) Natasia Demetriou (Wingnut), and Paul Rudd (Mondo Gecko). All in one shot. Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Aight, So Boom

Mutant Mayhem is the goods people, it lands all of the important cultural nuances without beating you in the head while doing it. Between its cultural competency, the talent, the synergy between the turtles, and the New York City of it all – you’ll be hard pressed to find a more fun movie this year. It’s like Across The Spider-Verse but with none of the high stakes. No matter where you are in the forty-year mythos, this is a great place to jump back in.

Like TMNT? Find BNP’s other reviews of the franchise here.

Cover image via CNN

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  • Poet, MC, Nerd, All-Around Problem. Lover of words, verse, and geek media from The Bronx, NYC.

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