Cowabunga! There is a fun new adventure for the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles. This latest animated feature — Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie — continues the happenings of the rowdy fighting turtles from their animated series. The series itself was a considerable change from what fans had previously known to be true in the TMNT properties, with new character designs and increased fantastical and mystical elements.

The animated film is set two years after Shredder’s defeat. Things are good with the turtles, who are facing their usual ups and downs of being brothers and heroes. However, things take a turn for the worse when a mysterious stranger (though not mysterious to the audience), Casey Jones (not the typical Casey Jones), arrives from the future with some troubling information. An alien species known as the Krang have arrived on Earth, enslaved humanity, and decimated the planet. The circumstances that lead to this problem and could save the world hinges upon Leonardo and Ralph settling their differences, with Leo learning the importance of becoming a leader.

This brother versus brother narrative is not new for TMNT. For years, new and old stories have put Ralph and Leo at odds as they are constantly put to the test by their various enemies and their sibling rivalry. Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, both the series and the feature film, reimagines this dynamic for newer audiences. The two-season animated series and its follow-up film are for more recent and younger audiences unfamiliar with any of the tropes and archetypes that have made TMNT a unique property. For older fans, it may seem redundant and predictable.

The animation style is energetic, colorful, and chaotic. Character designer Andy Suriano, who worked on Samurai Jack and The Powerpuff Girls, and series developer Ant Ward have reinterpreted the animation of Cartoon Network to fit TMNT. For the series, the animation style resembles a motion graphic novel, a nice nod to the comic book origins. What makes this latest iteration special is the fluidity of color, with entire sequences awash in colors that represent the emotional stakes and atmosphere. Overall, the creative presentation of the film is vibrant and embraces the eternal nature of animation. The chaotic element is in the movement, particularly the action, which is sometimes erratic and incomprehensible. The series and the film operate with high energy levels; there is hardly a moment to settle down with the characters.

It is not hard to make TMNT appeal to all. It is a unique property that doesn’t have to rise to new heights to maintain popularity. However, the one thing that has to be a top priority is to have engaging and appropriately cast actors. This ensemble has Kat Graham as April O’Neil, Ben Schwartz as Leo, Omar Benson Miller as Ralph, Josh Brener as Donnie, and Brandon Mychal Smith as Mikey. The casting is a mixed bag. Graham is fine. She doesn’t have much to do in the film, but she is delightful in the series. Miller, Smith, and Brener’s voices resemble past actors in their respective roles, but they add a touch of their personalities that make it enjoyable. Schwartz as Leo is an odd pill to swallow because his voice is quite distinctive and now widely recognizable after taking on the role of Sonic in the live-action movies. He can blend in with the ensemble to the untrained ear, but he may stick out like a sore thumb to others.

Overall, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie is fun. The writing and pacing leave a lot to be desired, but considering the goal is to be loud, flashy, and entertaining, it is hardly an issue. The film is simply an overdrawn episode of the series. It moves at a breakneck speed with urgency, but is somehow more prolonged than it needs to be. There is hardly ever a moment to stop and breathe. From the jump, everything is quick. This can be great to keep kids hyped and interested the whole time, or it can wear them down fast and make them lose interest. In all honesty, the film could have easily been a four-part series event. That said, expectations are probably not that high regarding this new portion of the TMNT franchise. All one can hope to get is a colorful and exciting adventure that allows the characters’ personalities to shine. Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie succeeds in that regard.

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