The ‘90s revival is showing no sign of abating this and those of us who wore and bore it all the first time around are basking in the comforting glow of nostalgia in lieu of the sun this summer. There couldn’t be a better time for some beloved heroes of our past to make a return and enchant a whole new generation. This season those heroes are masked, mutated, half-shelled and awesome!

Boisterous teens Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu), Michelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr.), Donatello (Micah Abbey) and Raphael (Brady Noon) long to expand the horizons of their lives. The boys may live right in the beating heart of New York City but their subterranean home and stealthy existence cut them off from the thing that would mean the most of all: connection.

The brothers’ adoptive dad Splinter (Jackie Chan) learned many years before that humans fear and despise that which they cannot understand. Making any prospect of them understanding the process by which four baby turtles and a street rat transformed into a pizza-loving, ninjitsu-proficient family of aspiring crime fighters (and their dad) a bit of a stretch.

Fired up by the fine rebellious example of Ferris Bueller and finally offered an opportunity to right a wrong, the Ninja Turtles burst into the life of school outcast and aspiring journalist April (Ayo Edebiri); opening their cloistered lives up to the chance of a real adventure and allowing April to blow a breaking news story wide open and rewrite her own story at last.

The Turtles matter to a lot of people. Childhood fans continue to hold an affectionate place for them in our memories and have a strong case for why Donatello is undeniably the best in our back pocket to break out whenever a pub debate arises. Writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and writer/director Jeff Rowe share the same sensibility and it has led them to craft an affectionate and remarkably lovely new iteration of the TMNT franchise.

A straightforward mission for the Turtles to ambush the mutant fly bad guy, steal a weapon of mass destruction, look effortlessly cool on camera and save the day so the world will love them and April can go to prom is thwarted by some ethical complications. And by the fact that the baddies are the kindred spirits the boys have longed to meet. Superfly (Ice Cube), Rocksteady (John Cena), Mondo Gecko (Paul Rudd) and friends make being bad feel good!

Suddenly the affection-hungry brothers have to consider what real acceptance looks like; does it come with a human face or is it something closer to the smiling mutagen-corrupted mugs they see when they confront themselves in the mirror? The Turtles and their new mutant chums are already cool, maybe it is the world that needs to change. Though it might want to hurry up because there’s a raging kaiju headed for the city trailing horses and destruction in his wake…

The first thing to know about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is that it is a delight to look at. Yashar Kassai’s production design bursts with raw kinetic energy, eloquently expressed through animation that looks like concept art sketches and moves like a dream. The second is that the core quartet are wonderful; genuine teens cast to play the adolescent leads and allowed to record their scenes together, lending an exuberance to their interactions that is a joy to hear.

Less successful, unfortunately, are the adult interactions. The frenetic grungey approach to aesthetics does not work nearly as well when applied to a script and there are moments when the improvisations of the wider cast border on table-read-rambling. The boys’ bond with April and the veracity of her character are also a struggle to sell. The spark only truly ignites when April’s ambitions give her a proper way into the story and allow her personality to blossom during the showdown.

With Jackie Chan’s Splinter bringing wisdom and soul and the endearing central performances of its young stars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is a winner despite the scattering of flaws a baggy screenplay has caused. Stay in your seats for mid-credits scenes which leave the door open for the pending sequel and ride one final high from the Reznor/Ross score and the crowd-pleasing East Coast hip-hop laden soundtrack while you’re there. Cowabunga!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is in cinemas now

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
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Emily Breen
Emily Breen began writing for HeyUGuys in 2009. She favours pretzels over popcorn and rarely watches trailers as she is working hard to overcome a compulsion to ‘solve’ plots. Her trusty top five films are: Betty Blue, The Red Shoes, The Princess Bride, The Age of Innocence and The Philadelphia Story. She is troubled by people who think Tom Hanks was in The Philadelphia Story and by other human beings existing when she is at the cinema.
teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-mutant-mayhem-reviewTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is a winner despite the scattering of flaws a baggy screenplay has caused.