Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot delivers animated eye candy

(Paramount Pictures)

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are back on the big screen for their seventh movie overall and second animated film, and while the heroes in a half shell have never been one of my favorite comic-book, cartoon, or movie franchises, I found this animated reboot entertaining eye candy.

I was a little bit too immature to get the satire of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s original comic-book version of TMNT in the early 1980s. I understood that it was riffing on funny animals, the X-Men, and Daredevil comics of the day, but I didn’t find it interesting.

By the late 1980s when the cartoon version of TMNT became popular with my young nephew, I was too old to really get into that version, but I saw the first couple of movies with him. However, I have very little nostalgia for the characters other than appreciating that my nephew really enjoyed them in his youth.

But “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” was quite entertaining, funny, and short enough at just over an hour and a half to not wear out its welcome.

The film has a fascinating animated style that looks like a cross between claymation and CGI cartoons that is arresting. It has a scratchy, rough-around-the-edges vibe that just works for the characters. It is reminiscent of their early comic-book adventures in look. The tone of the film is a bit grittier than previous big-screen versions, but the movie is made for kids.

Compliments to director Jeff Rowe and his fellow screenwriters Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Dan Hernandez, and Benji Samit for striking a balance that is for kids but still is adult-friendly for those wishing to play along.

For the first time in animation or for live-action for that matter, the Turtles, named after classical painters Donatello, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Raphael, actually sound and act like teens instead of adults acting down to the part. Using teens for the characters’ voices really made a difference. It’s what made this movie more enjoyable to me than any other iteration of the characters that I have experienced.

Changing the April O’Neal character (Ayo Edebirii) to a student journalist with social anxiety and stage fright also enhanced the story by giving her and the Turtles more common ground and something for her to overcome. Jackie Chan is quite funny in voicing Splinter, the mutant rat, who is the Turtles’ mentor, sensei, and father figure all rolled into one.

The TMNT are challenged by Superfly, a mutant pest voiced hilariously by Ice T. There are a gaggle of other recognizable voices such as Rogen, Paul Rudd, Rose Byne, Maya Rudolph, John Cena, Giancarlo Esposito giving life to various characters for sharp-eared film-goers to suss out.

The comedy-adventure kept me chuckling throughout, but I was happy it didn’t carry on any longer than it did. The sound track will be fun for those who grew up in the 1990s, and the overall score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is sharp and catchy.

I wasn’t expecting much when I entered the theater, but was happily surprised. If your kids are dying to see this movie, it’s not that bad. Actually it’s really solid.

(PG) 1 hr. 39 min.
Grade: B-

New in Local Theaters – Aug. 4, 2023

Meg 2: The Trench (PG-13) 1 hr. 56 min. (trailer)(AMC Fiesta Square. Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (PG) 1 hr. 39 min. (trailer)(AMC Fiesta Square. Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight)
Shortcomings (R) 1 hr. 32 min. (trailer)(AMC Fiesta Square)

Classic Corner: Summer Under the Stars — Errol Flynn

All August long, Turner Classic Movies is celebrating its annual “Summer Under the Stars” event in which it dedicates each day’s slate of films to a single star. This Saturday Errol Flynn takes center stage on the channel. I’m a Flynn fan, so I think most of these films are worthy of your time, but the two I’d like to point out are:

They Died With Their Boots On — 4:30 p.m. (Central)

The history is sketchy at best in this rousing 1941 biopic of Gen. George Armstrong Custer, but, my, doesn’t Errol Flynn cut a dashing figure in a Calvary uniform.

Flynn, who plays the arrogant, devil-may-care Custer, and his onscreen paramour Olivia de Havilland have excellent chemistry in their eighth and final film together. They are a joy to watch.

The film, directed by Raoul Walsh, also features Anthony Quinn in an early role as Sioux war chief Crazy Horse. The score by Max Steiner adds to the flavor of the picture, and if you aren’t at least humming the tune to “Garryowen” by the time the film ends, you might not have a pulse.

The Adventures of Robin Hood — 11:15 p.m. (Central)

If you’re going to stay up late to watch a movie, it needs to be a great one, and “The Adventures of Robin Hood” certainly is that.

The 1938 film, directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, starred Errol Flynn and his leading lady Olivia de Havilland as Robin of Locksley and Lady Marion in arguably their greatest pairing and absolutely Flynn’s best role.

If the film were made today, Flynn would be swashbuckling his way through numerous sequels. The Australian actor was born to play Robin Hood, and with him brandishing a swift blade and deftly nailing targets with his arrows, the film set the standard for action and adventure movies in the golden age of Hollywood.

Filmed in lush Technicolor, the movie is eye-popping as Flynn and his merry men rob from the rich to give to the poor, irking Prince John (Claude Rains) and Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone). Rathbone will be forever remembered for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, but he sizzles as Robin’s chief rival. The sword fight between Flynn and Rathbone is spectacular, perhaps the best ever committed to film.

The jaunty score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold won an Academy Award and is considered by many to be the one of the best ever composed. The movie also won Oscars for Best Film Editing and Best Film Design.

It’s a great movie for all ages with humor, action, and romance, but be warned, you might have to referee sword fights between your kids afterwards.