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'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem' (2023) - A Glimpse into the Transformative Power of Family, Friendship, and Fear

The latest installment in the beloved media franchise is a unique stylized mesh of humor and heart.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

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The themes of family and acceptance in a world suspicious of anyone or anything that defies the norm is universal, and one capable of penetrating and transforming the hardest of hearts. Being shunned by a society seemingly unable and/or unwilling to tolerate that which is different is indeed scary. It is also the one thing that makes the story of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles resonate to this day.

First introduced in 1984 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the four heroes in a half-shell quickly captured the hearts and minds of kids and adults alike. The media franchise has spawned several movies, television shows, and an onslaught of merchandise. While the turtles have evolved with the times, the central tenants of family and acceptance are still the heart of the franchise. And it still works!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, the seventh cinematic adventure in the media franchise, once again finds the titular heroes beckoned by the possibilities of the outside world, each dealing with this struggle in his own unique way. Shepherded by their surrogate father, Splinter, they all retain their individual quirks and charms that help them stand out in the group. The ensuing dynamic sparks many humorous beats and a few enjoyable callbacks.

L -> R: April, Leo, Mikey, Donnie, and Raph.

Splinter is perhaps the most memorable of the bunch. In a striking departure from previous incarnations, his journey is the emotional fulcrum on which the story rests. Unlike traditional depictions of the wise mentor, whose knowledge and skill instill the turtles with reasonable confidence and self-assurance, this portrayal of the archetypical sage (voiced by Jackie Chan) is perhaps more insecure and frightful of the world than his youthful wards. His innate fatherly instincts clash with an inherent awareness that the turtles can not be confined to life in a sewer forever. In this way, Splinter’s dilemma acts as a catalyst to explore the turtles’ own feelings. Simultaneously familiar and fresh, Splinter’s perspective strikes a unique emotional chord, adding another dimension to the internal plight shared by all the characters.

April O’Neil’s (voiced by Ayo Edebiri) plight also enriches and deepens the thematic focus. Like Splinter, her fear of public speaking leads to quite a quagmire that ultimately threatens to derail the driving desire for acceptance. Only when each character is able to confront, and overcome the negativity and bias of their own feelings, do they find themselves free from the shackles of fear.

The end-product is a uniquely stylized family-friendly story sure to satisfy the young and the young at heart.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle: Mutant Mayhem is available on Vudu, Prime Video, Paramount+, MGM+ and Apple TV.