Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem review

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

As a kid who grew up in the 80s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were pretty much a staple of my childhood. I saw the movies, I watched the TV show, I sang along to the Coming Out of their Shells live concert movie, and of course, played all of the video games.

Fast forward to the 2000s and the Turtles were re-written, revamped, repackaged, and transformed into various different stages of shows, movies, and video games that simply weren’t any good – and I had to face the fact that perhaps the issue was that I had outgrown my childhood heroes.

Sure, even as an adult, I still feel joy when I see the original trilogy (even that terrible third one) or the cartoon, and I’ve played countless hours of the arcade titles on emulators – even platinuming the Cowabunga Collection – but maybe I was just “too old” for what the Turtles had become.

TMNT (released in 2007) was passable, but certainly not on the level of the original movie, while the last attempts at live-action in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (released in 2014) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (released in 2016) had done something similar to what Hasbro had done with Transformers: In some weird attempt to diversify the characters, they made the turtles into racial stereotypes.

I had pretty much decided that this wasn’t for me, giving up on my Turtles after just a few episodes of the clearly-made-for-children Nickelodeon reboot and skipping its subsequent follow-up done in the awful Teen Titans: GO animation style, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
Production: Nickelodeon Movies, Point Grey Pictures
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Director: Jeff Rowe
Release Date: August 2nd, 2023

I wasn’t sure what to think when I saw that Seth Rogen was doing a new Turtles movie with TMNT: Mutant Mayhem, but I knew that I was gonna see it because I really liked the art style. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is drawn in a very interesting style, sitting somewhere between sketch-style stop animation and claymation, which is quite eye-catching to see in motion.

I decided to throw all my worries to the wind and give this film a shot since it likely meant it would be a little more edgy and a lot less sterilized than Nickelodeon had done before. The result? Seth Rogen’s movie is a bubbling cauldron of both safety, pandering, and just enough bait to entice older audiences out of sheer curiosity.

Mutant Mayhem starts off with TCRI agents attacking Baxter Stockman’s lab in order to recover his “created mutant and whatever he used to make it”. Baxter Stockman is shown, but you don’t really get much characterization out of him aside from a short monologue that no one ever liked him, since he’s killed during the opening sequence.

Baxter’s creations are shown in little glowing test tubes on the bench, while the agents are being beaten to a pulp by a super-sized housefly. Eventually, an agent shoots an air tank that causes an explosion, killing Stockman and sending the stolen mutagen down into the sewers. There’s always some reason to get the mutagen into the sewers, but never any great reason as to how the turtles got there, but I digress.

Splinter is shown being chased around NYC as a rat before stumbling into the sewer only to stumble upon the turtles. Instead of attacking him, they were kind to him and one of the turtles rubbed up against him, so Splinter rescues them from the ooze and they all mutate.

This deviate somewhat with Splinter, an adult rat, becomes a man, while the turtles being babies are formed to look like human toddlers instead. Splinter then watches a bunch of ninja movies to train the turtles on how to protect themselves, since the humans will only want to kill them or possibly hook them up to a machine and “milk” them – which is both foreshadowing and a running gag.

To summarize the plot, the turtles observe the humans and become obsessed with wanting to be “normal” (they are teenagers after all) but Splinter won’t let them connect with the human world for fear of rejection or harm. April O’Neal is investigating crime because there’s a kingpin named Superfly who’s been wreaking havoc on NYC, so the school canceled their prom out of safety for the students.

While she is investigating a scene, someone steals her scooter, and the turtles, watching this “stunning beauty of a woman” shout to warn her, and they eventually reveal themselves to her.

April and the turtles eventually decide to team up and try and stop Superfly, and the turtles think that by stopping Superfly and letting April record them doing it, they’ll be seen as heroes and welcomed to live a normal life and enroll in April’s high school.

Yeah, it’s a really dumbed-down version of the original plot, but without Shredder or the Foot Clan, and focuses heavily on them being teenagers. April is an aspiring reporter, but when they accompany her to the school they find out that she’s a big nerd and got bullied.

She was bullied because she threw up everywhere during her tryout for the school news team, which is lovingly set to Unwritten by Natasha Beddingfield. April sees the turtles story as being her redemption and overcoming her embarrassment so that the school stops calling her “puke girl”.

The biggest problem with this movie isn’t that it’s bad, so much as it never decides what it wants to be. It’s partially a reimagining of the original movie, and then it starts to venture out on its own, and by the time something of note finally happens, it’s over. It feels like they stretched 30 minutes of content into a 90-minute movie, and that’s the worst part since the animation is cool.

The story just kinda happens, it feels like watching a sit-com. There’s events, quips that only slightly land at best, and a few attempts at crude humor that fly far over the heads of the seemingly intended audience. Is this movie supposed to be for kids? Is it actually meant for Gen-Zers who want a movie they can take their kid to?

What the hell is this movie actually supposed to be? The running gag about being milked is referencing TCRI draining their blood to retrieve the missing mutagen, and there’s a bunch of obvious stuff laid for anyone familiar with the source material that nothing surprising happens at all.

There’s a scene in the school where Michaelangelo sees a sign-up sheet for an improv group and wants to sign up but doesn’t know if they have a last name so he decides to break his name up as Michael Angelo. This, of course, is followed suit by the other turtles seeing what their names sound like broken up, and they call Leonardo by Leo Nardo, so they all get a giggle out of his name being “Nardo”.

Nardo sounds funny so the kids will laugh, and the people my age will chuckle because we remember when “nard” was slang for testicle, but it’s far from edgy or even all that funny.


It’s a very safe movie, with no swearing, and even the crudest jokes are still tame by a country mile. This is also reflected in the soundtrack as the music chosen isn’t popular today, and most of the songs people only know from memes or commercials, such as Push it to the Limit, Ante Up, or No Diggity.

There’s also a ton of cameos but I can’t really talk about them without spoiling the second half of the movie, but let’s just say that there’s a lot of old bad guys who appear to help out Superfly. The cameos are almost all wasted too as very few characters outside of the turtles, Splinter, April, and Superfly have all that much dialogue.

There’s even a dude voiced by Mr. Beast. The most impressive of these celebrity voices has to be Splinter though, as he’s voiced by Jackie Chan, but sounds like Danny Devito doing a Jackie Chan impression. It’s so weird.

As a popcorn flick, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is fine. It’s not bad, it’s not good, it just is a thing. I didn’t hate it, but I’m still not sure what it was supposed to be. It’s also got a really dumb and obvious ending showing Splinter overcoming prejudice and everyone being accepted. The animation style is still dope though, so at least there’s that, I guess.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem was reveiwed in theaters, and is currently screening in theaters. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

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The Verdict: 6.5

The Good

  • The animation is unique and eye catching
  • Kids will like it and it's super safe
  • Nice throwback to see minor bad guys make an appearance

The Bad

  • The story is barely coherent
  • This movie has no idea who the intended audience is
  • The soundtrack is decent but doesn't fit right
  • The best way to enjoy this movie is if you have absolutely zero knowledge of the Turtles franchise


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