I grew up on the Turtles; video games, arcade games, action figures, television shows, a movie triolgy, lunchboxes, pajamas, you name it. I once even requested a Donatello figure from a face paint artist at a festival, who, it became apparent, didn’t know what a bō staff was and drew a bow & arrow with Donnie instead. Point is, the Turtles were my life for a rather large period of time, and I’ve been so happy to share the old stuff with my son as he’s grown up and grown into these tubular dudes. This new movie, I am overjoyed to say, is everything we both could want; throwbacks & an old school feel, plus new material & modern vernacular, combining with ground-breaking animation to create something truly awesome.
We know the origin story of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; an experiment gone wrong, misplaced ooze, four tiny turtle siblings awash in weird science, and the rat who found them, raised them, and was changed himself. The four brothers are now teenagers, and they do teenage things; stay out later, stop listening to their dad, make dumb videos on their phones, eat too much pizza, generally goof off while growing up. But a rash of crime in NYC catches their attention, especially after the perpetrators turn out to be other mutants, a whole slew of creatures who are no longer the simple animals they once were. The leader, Superfly, wants to make the world a better place for mutants, which sounds nice, but at what cost to humanity?
Not only was Mutant Mayhem an incredible nod to the original Turtles, with its goofy characters, cool villains, and kid humor, but it was also an incredible work of modern art, with animation made to look like drawings, slang that’s used today, and vivid scenes the entire length. The guys even had phones, they had problems, their dad loved them, they loved each other, the world was messed up, they were trying their best; art imitates life, right? This is surprisingly good stuff, both in homage and in quality, and I could not have been more pleased. I guess it shouldn’t have been shocking; this is the team, Rowe & Spears, that gave us Mitchells vs Machines, and this film is slightly better. It’s also Rogen & Goldberg, who give us ridiculously great comedies like Superbad, and you should expect that feel, only much less adult. This is kids being kids, this is awkward teenage angst, this is parents getting older and having trouble letting go, and this is, simply, excellent cinema. Add in an all-star cast (Maya Rudolph, John Cena, Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Jackie Chan, Ice Cube, Paul Rudd, Post Malone, Hannibal Buress, Giancarlo Esposito) and you’ve got one of the best movies of the year on your hands, animated or otherwise.
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆