Sitting down to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (Rialto, Reading), it occurred to me that, despite the enormous popularity of the franchise in the ’80s and ’90s, I don’t think I’ve ever watched a full episode of the TV series or seen any of the films.
Yet, given how ubiquitous it was in the pop culture of the time, I still knew all the character names and the basic concept. Hell, I can even sing the theme song. I bring this up because, after seeing the new entry in the series, I began to wonder if I’d missed out on something I would have adored as a youngster.
Luckily, while this is the seventh theatrically released movie, it’s also what’s known in the biz as a soft reboot, which means we get a full origin story for the titular heroes, in which some mysterious ooze created by a mad scientist is leaked into the New York sewers, causing four baby turtles and a rat named Splinter to mutate into humanoid form.
Jump forward 15 years, and the lads, now experts in ninjitsu, are called upon to prevent a group of rogue mutants from leaking the ooze into the earth’s atmosphere, thereby mutating every organism on the planet.
It’s a bog-standard hero’s journey storyline elevated by vibrant, inventive animation, enjoyable voice work, a high ratio of amusing gags courtesy of co-writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and a top-notch, pulsating score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Cowabunga indeed.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: MUTANT MAYHEM
Director: Jeff Rowe
Cast: Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown Jr., Nicolas Cantu, Brady Noon, Ayo Edebiri, Maya Rudolph, John Cena, Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Jackie Chan, Ice Cube, Paul Rudd
Rating: (PG) ★★★+
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