This has been a very strange summer at the box office.
Disney, normally a box office juggernaut that makes other studios tremble in fear and shift their own release dates, stumbled uncharacteristically this summer movie season, with a run of underperforming blockbusters. Then, #Barbenheimer took the world by storm, and film audiences fell head over heels for the unusual double-feature of Barbie and Oppenheimer.
I’m not a professional box office analyst, and I’m still not sure what to make of all the surprises we saw this summer, or what this will mean for Hollywood’s future. (My inner optimist wants to hope they will learn the right lessons from the success of Barbie and Oppenheimer, but I remain skeptical.)
With the ongoing strike, it’s unclear what the rest of the year will hold for film fans. But what I can say is, this past weekend I experienced a very welcome and very pleasant late-summer surprise at the box office. I went to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, and I really, really loved it. As in, this very fun and energetic movie will likely end up on my favorite movies of the year list. It’s well worth a trip to the theater, and is a positive way to close out a weird and wild summer movie season.
Before going to see this film, I was somewhat familiar with the Turtles and their importance to pop culture. I’d seen some of the cartoon episodes here and there while growing up, and I knew the Turtles were named for famous Renaissance artists and loved pizza and the word “Cowabunga.” However, I didn’t know much about the franchise beyond this basic information.
Yet even as a relative newbie, I had no troubles connecting with the characters or the story being told, and as soon as the movie ended, I wanted to see more.
What really works here is the Turtles as characters and how they are portrayed as normal teenagers, with all the endearing goofiness and awkwardness that entails. I loved their relationship with their adopted guardian, Splinter. I always love the theme of found families in stories, and how you don’t have to be tied by blood to find a sense of belonging. There’s a really sweet story about love and compassion and acceptance to be found at the heart of this movie, and it was actually quite touching.
The movie is both entertaining and funny, and I chuckled at the jokes throughout. The animation also is incredible, and it’s what initially drew me to this film. The unique animation style fits perfectly with the story being told, similar to the artwork style created for the Spider-Verse films.
Watching this movie really makes me want to see more animated movies from Hollywood, in a variety of genres and artistic styles. There are so many possibilities in this medium, and it deserves more attention.
If you’re a Turtles fan, I hope you enjoy this movie. And even if you’re not, this is a great introduction to the franchise and a highly entertaining time at the movie theater.