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The A-Listers Talk About Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (2023)
From the couple who see a lot of movies because they have AMC A-List.
Patrick: No AMC nonsense this time around! But we also didn't put Pop Rocks in an ICEE to celebrate the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, so maybe we're the problem?
Taylor: No theater nonsense, but here's always bathroom nonsense. I, at the very least, always leave AMC with a souvenir of stale popcorn stuck to my butt, toilet paper stuck to my shoe, or simply a headache from how rowdy it gets. But this time I left with a cool poster! Score!
Patrick: Cowabunga! A few years ago, we watched the 1990 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and I believe that's your only experience with these pizza-loving boys, is that correct?
Taylor: That is correct! That was such a fun time because we went to a "viewing party" (if you will) at a local independent theater and got our own fancy pizzas before the showing. That time, it was really about the full TMNT experience, whereas this was just about the movie. I was a little skeptical whether or not this entity, which I have such little experience with, would hold its own weight, but boy was I pleasantly surprised!
Patrick: I think that people will discount this as a Spider-Verse knock-off, but I think it totally stands alone. In fact, I might even prefer it over the most recent entry in that series...
Taylor: I'll be honest and say that when I started seeing this trailer float around in such close proximity to the newest Spider-Verse, I was already a little fatigued from just the thought of these two movies because they aren't typically my thing. But you're completely right in saying it absolutely stands on its own, and I will proudly say that I liked it way more than the newest installment. Other than it not being my preferred genre or style of movie, I basically have nothing bad or even indifferent to say about the movie. I had a BLAST!
Patrick: I also had a blast! I was really digging it, but couldn't quite put my finger on why (other than just having a good time) until the scene that made me go THAT'S IT! When the Turtles meet up with the other mutants for the first time, they go bowling. It could be anything, really. Didn't have to be bowling. But this movie is exactly like going bowling. Have you ever been cosmic bowling? (Not you, Taylor, I know you have. We should go again soon.) You know, when they turn the lights off and turn the neon on and you pay $2.50 to bump '90s hip-hop on the jukebox and eat cardboard pizza and slurp soda and you're just with your friends hangin' and laughing and the bowling is fun but it's not the point? This is just like that.
Taylor: That's a great way to describe the entire vibe of this film. It's fun and has a KILLER soundtrack that had me bobbing my head nearly the entire run time, but it also gave me a gut punch emotionally. The concept of being outsiders and feeling like you can't find a place in the world isn't a new concept, not in movies in general but also not in this TMNT universe, but for some reason I connected so deeply with this particular story. I found the chemistry between the voice actors (something we saw in a behind-the-scenes featurette before the movie) made for a really moving and effective emotional arc. I really empathized with them and I can say that's the last thing I expected to do when watching this movie.
Patrick: I think that the casting is just one of the many things that they did right with this one. Actual teenagers! Can you believe it - kids playing kids! I already mentioned the excellent (and teenage-inspired!) animation. I know that you're a big fan of Seth Rogen and I have to admit that I was worried his vibe would rub off too much on a beloved property, but it manages to have his voice (and the voice of his writing partner Evan Goldberg) while still feeling totally like the Turtles. In fact, other than a climax that felt too serious for its own good, there's really only stuff to like.
Taylor: Totally! I've said it once, and I'll say it again - tweens are the only people suited to play tweens! There is just something about the teenage awkwardness and angst that is impossible to replicate, even if you've lived that experience. That's because no one KNOWS how awkward and angsty you are until AFTER you grow out of it. So talent teams need to cast people who are truly smack in the middle of that life stage. I'm definitely a Seth Rogen fan (I highly, highly recommend his memoir Yearbook, it's laugh-out-loud funny - which is incredibly high praise coming from myself, a notoriously tough crowd), but even I'll admit his commitment to the bit can get in his own way. He clearly has a passion for this franchise and blended his knowledge and understanding with his flair perfectly. I want more adaptations and things along this line from him!
Patrick: I would totally watch a bunch more stories in this universe. I want them to take on Shredder! It seems like they'd have to recast, however. The boys already have different voices! The Turtles can't age too much - they're Teenage Mutants!
Taylor: Yeah, that's definitely the downside to casting within the tween age range, but it's totally worth it. From that behind-the-scenes featurette, it's clear they fostered a really collaborative, creative, and fun environment where everyone, especially the kids, was able to play. Even though this cast clearly has particularly great chemistry, it seems like this team could inject rizz into any teen group. Now I really sound old...
Patrick: Final question: This movie made me really hungry, as all great Turtles stories should. What's the perfect snack/meal to pair with this movie?
Taylor: Obviously pizza. As mentioned before, when we did the 1990 movie party, we had fancy pizzas of the brie, fig, and arugula variety. I'd say the ideal pizza for this film is a large cheese pizza with extra cheese. Dare I even say a stuffed crust? God, now I'm hungry again!
Patrick: So no ICEEs with Pop Rocks?
Taylor: Yes to the ICEE, no to the Pop Rocks.
Patrick: Thanks for reading, folks.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the film being covered here wouldn't exist.
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