Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (PG)
Directors: Jeff Rowe, Kyler Spears
Starring: Voices of Jackie Chan, Ice Cube, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd
Coming out of their shells in style
I know, I know: yet another Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie? In this day and age? Is such a thing absolutely necessary?
The honest answer to that last question is a big fat no.
However, if we circle back to that query about this day and age, a case can definitely be made for a TMNT reboot.
This is 2023, remember: a year in which movies adapted from a sales-challenged line of dolls (Barbie) and a defunct videogame (Super Mario Bros.) have both grossed over two billion dollars.
So if you’re running a film studio, there just might be a nifty little nostalgic licence to print money in play here. Anything that was big with the kids 30 years ago could be the next blockbuster about to happen.
Hence, we are blessed with a seventh screen adventure for everyone’s favourite sewer-dwelling superheroes.
For those who have been burnt before by below-par TMNT productions, it will be almost impossible to give this quick-quipping quartet of crime-fighters one more chance.
However, for those with a wide open mind or a supremely spongy soft spot for the Turtles, a very welcome surprise awaits. There is a blend of dry wit, infectious energy and genuine inspiration that marks out Mutant Mayhem as the best thing to ever carry the TMNT badge.
The reason why is easy to identify. From the get-go, the production was earmarked as a passion project for the crack writing team of actor Seth Rogen and his longtime creative collaborator Evan Goldberg.
While the earthy adult humour of past Rogen-Goldberg screenplays such as Superbad, Pineapple Express and Sausage Party is not a factor here, their clear affection for the Turtles and the goofy mythos powering these characters shines through in every scene.
As an added bonus, this all-animation affair takes its visual cues from those impeccably drawn Spider-Man movies of recent times. Some real illustrative flair has been applied to the gritty ’n’ grotty NYC underground that is the traditional terrain of the Turtles.
Plot-wise, Mutant Mayhem delivers two quality origin stories for the price of one.
Firstly, we are spirited back to the incident that cast the sibling turtles Raphael (voiced by Brady Noon), Donatello (Micah Abbey), Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu) and Michelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr.) to the subterranean shadows of New York City.
It is here, of course, that our heroes learn their famed command of the martial arts from their wise old sensei, the beloved mutant rat Splinter (evocatively voiced by the one and only Jackie Chan).
Secondly, we learn the background of the fearsome enemy that will be battling the Turtles throughout the movie: his name is Superfly (Ice Cube), and he heads a garrulous gang (voiced by Rogen, John Cena and Paul Rudd) that wants the world to themselves ASAP.
With a running time of just over 90 minutes and an unflagging ability to keep boredom at bay, this is a fine effort that will exceed the expectations of most who see it.
TMNT: Mutant Mayhem is screening in advance previews tomorrow (Friday) and Sunday before opening in general release next on September 7
HAUNTED MANSION (M)
Movie fans with long memories have probably tried their best to forget the original Haunted Mansion from 2003. That was the Eddie Murphy-starring dud adapted from a long-running Disney theme park attraction. This new one carries the same storytelling DNA, and falls victim to the same cinematic curse. It just isn’t possible to make a two-hour movie based on a 10-minute ride.
This is not to say this Haunted Mansion is anywhere near as bad as its predecessor. It’s just unrelentingly flat in tone, and never really excites or engages the viewer in ways the filmmakers might have hoped for. A quality cast headed by Rosario Dawson (the widowed single mum who needs her home rid of many a ghost and spectre), Owen Wilson (the kooky priest exercising his right to exorcise), Tiffany Haddish (a shonky spirit medium) and Danny DeVito (an antsy academic) are all trying their hardest, but the so-so source material gives them too little to actively work with.
EGO: THE MICHAEL GUDINSKI STORY (M)
This most enjoyable documentary only has the one point to make, but it drives it home clearly and irrefutably: they don’t make ’em like the late, great Michael Gudinski any more. Against all the odds, the famously mercurial Gudinski built both a business empire and a creative legacy that shaped the sound and stature of Australian music for several decades. The sheer influence of the acts that graced the roster of Gudinski’s Mushroom Records label across its various phases of chart success (particularly the breakthroughs achieved by Skyhooks, Split Enz, Kylie Minogue and Yothu Yindi) cannot be challenged, and Gudinski’s hand in getting his talent recognised and respected deserves the backslapping treatment meted out here. While the doco could have used a few judicious trims here and there, those with a real passion for our rich local music history will wish the whole thing went even longer.
Originally published as Seth Rogen’s love of all things Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles makes for the best movie yet