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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991) Movie Poster
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  •  USA / Hong Kong  •    •  88m  •    •  Directed by: Michael Pressman.  •  Starring: Paige Turco, David Warner, Michelan Sisti, Leif Tilden, Kenn Scott, Mark Caso, Kevin Clash, Ernie Reyes Jr., François Chau, Toshishiro Obata, Raymond Serra, Mark Ginther, Kurt Bryant.  •  Music by: John Du Prez.
        When reporter April O'Neil does a story on Professor Perry, and his efforts to uncover a certain toxic waste, the evil Shredder concludes that this is what gives the turtles their power, gets his hands on some and proceeds to create dangerous mutants. Armed with Professor Perry's anti-mutant antidote, it's up to the crime fighting turtles and a pizza delivery boy to conquer these mutants.

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Review:

Image from: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
Image from: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
Image from: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
Image from: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
Image from: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
Image from: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
Image from: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
Image from: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
Image from: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
Image from: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
Image from: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
Turtle-Mania peaked in the early nineties, with the cartoon soaring in the ratings, the toys flying off the shelves, and the Turtles' faces slapped on every sort of merchandise imaginable. The first film fed off that excitement, being so successful that it was, for a time, the highest grossing independent film ever. A sequel had to happen. And fast. Nearly a year after the original, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze" ninja-chopped into theaters.

The film is a direct sequel, picking up days after the first. The Ninja Teens are still high on their victory over Shredder, despite Splinter's insistence that they focus on their studies. Shredder isn't dead though, somehow surviving a seven-story drop into a garbage truck. With a more messed-up face, Shredder pulls together the Foot in order to exact revenge on the Turtles. That revenge takes the form of the ooze that birthed the Turtles. The bad guys steal the last of the ooze in order to create two mutants, the brutish but child-like Tokka and Rahzar. The same ooze leads the TMNT to understand their past.

Something I admire about the original film is how deftly it balanced the goofiness of the popular cartoon with the grittiness of the comics. "Secret of the Ooze" has no interest in balance. In the first film, the Turtles smash a light before attacking, avoiding detection. In the opening of this film, the team step in full view of a human, dispatching their enemies with slapstick comedy. So much for the Art of Invisibility. In that first scene, Mikey fights with a yoyo and sausage links. Donnie pretends to be an inflatable clown, whacking a guy with a foam bat. That silliness infects the entire production. While attempting to grab the mutagen away from the Foot Clan, the Turtles enact a game of football, surfing on office chairs. Previously, the Foot was a serious threat. This time, they're a joke, not a one putting up a fight. Tokka and Rahzar aren't much of a threat either. Their childish minds make them easy to outsmart. The worst thing they do is knock down telephone poles and flip a car. Even that scene is undermined by wise-cracking old people.

"Secret of the Ooze" was rushed into production. That shows in its ramshackle plot. There are elements that work. The mutagen's origin, an accidental mixture of chemicals, is satisfying. David Warner's Professor Perry is a decent addition. He advances the plot while having a personality. However, the plot mostly seems thrown together. The Turtles searching for a new home is decent but stumbling upon the abandoned train station is awfully convenient. The movie introduces a new character, karate pizza boy Keno. Keno, played by an overly earnest Ernie Reyes Jr., is annoying. He disappears for long stretches. He exists to help Raph infiltrate the Foot, which promptly gets the Turtle captured. The heroes escape that trap easily before willingly walking back into Shredder's lair. Combat between the Ninja Teens and Tokka and Rahzar is never delivered. Every time it looks like the fight is about to click, the movie is sidelined by goofy comedy.

The biggest indignity faces the Turtles in the last act. The Foot's junkyard base is apparently located next to a dance club. The fight tumbles into the club where Vanilla Ice, signifier of nineties schlock, is performing. The patrons don't flee from the fighting terrapins. Instead, the funky white boy improvises a rap, the club playing along. Tokka and Rahzar are easily defeated, the Professor pulling a plot resolution out of nowhere. Despite the movie around him being a goofball comedy, Shredder remained a serious villain. He grabs a dancer and threatens to slash her throat. The Turtles' response? Michelangelo performs a sweet keytar solo, causing a speaker to explode, launching the villain into the equally improbable dock outside. The film wraps up on the potentially cool idea of Shredder drinking the last of the ooze, transforming into Super-Shredder. (Even if his armor mutating makes zero sense.) However, the neatness of that idea is undermined by the Turtles refusing to fight and the villain ending his own life by needlessly collapsing the dock.

The film is a mess of campiness and squandered potential. Yet the movie still gets a few things right. The characterizations of the Turtles remain strong. A concept that reoccurs throughout every version of the franchise is Leo and Raph butting heads. Here, the head-strong Raphael wants to pursue the Foot Clan while Leonardo is more preoccupied with finding a new home. That rashness gets him in trouble, again, and after rescuing him, the brothers are reunited. Donatello was mostly Mikey's comedic foil in the first film. Here, he gets a juicy character arc of not accepting the casualness of their origin. He is also more fully established as the one who does machine, as his techno know-how comes in handy a few times. I even prefer Adam Carl's thoughtful vocal performance over Corey Feldman's. I also like Paige Turco as April more then Judith Hoag. Turco seems more comfortable in the part. The creature effects are even better then last time too. The Turtles' faces reach a new level of expressiveness. Tokka and Rahzar are memorably cartoonish in their designs as well.

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze" is a lesser film than the first. The sloppy screenplay and an abundance of kid-friendly silliness sinks it. However, I can't hate the movie. Any film that gifts the world of pop culture with a bit of ridiculous cheese like the Ninja Rap can't be all bad. However, I have a lot less nostalgic affection for this one. Instead of playing off the original's good example, it's more-or-less the silly kid's flick we expected the first one to be.


Review by Bonehead-XL from the Internet Movie Database.

 

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