Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Half-Shell Retrospective: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II - The Secret Of The Ooze (1991)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze
Director: Michael Pressman
Starring: Paige Turco, David Warner, Ernie Reyes Jr, Francois Chau (aka Pierre Chang from Lost)
Rated: PG-13

The rat is the cleanest one.
         ~April O'Neil

We got a sequel to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie insanely fast.  Secret of the Ooze was released just a little less than a year later.  This was a pretty exciting time.  The Turtles were probably at the height of their popularity when this hit.  I remember Pizza Hut was all over them.  They also had a live show that toured using them as a rock band.  There was also an album you could get (I think Pizza Hut had that too).  The cartoon was also still running.  You could got to Burger King and get a VHS tape with an episode on it if you ordered a kids' meal.  Kids Kids Kids...Turtles were everywhere and because it was such a kid sensation, the producers of the film series decided to respond.
When I first saw Secret Of The Ooze back in 1991 opening weekend, I enjoyed myself quite a bit.  Some things were different and there was a bit of a different feeling (but sometimes you get that "little bit off" sense with sequels).  I didn't understand why we had a new April or why the hell aren' the mutants Shredder creates Bebop and Rocksteady?  Donatello also has a new voice, and he's kind of annoying and sucks for the most part (sad because this is "his" film if there's any about Turtles).  But, shrugged it off and enjoyed all the jokes and ninja fighting going on.  This one felt like it was taking things up a notch and going further.  It was taking things up a notch all right, but not where it should have.
Going back to Secret Of The Ooze when older was a total 180.  The older you get, the less enjoyable it is.  The producers scared off by parental complaints of the last movie being too violent and dark went in the exact opposite direction.  Gone are the turtles using their weapons in the entire movie.  And to cut down on the punches, they use silly props to do their fighting as well.  Casey Jones too scary and too adult a street vigilante?  Okay, well, here's Keno the martial arts pizza boy who looks 18 but acts and talks like he is 7 years old.  Ooze is also plagued by up'ing the yok count and delivering plenty of terrible one-liners. 
We also get a new April, in that of the easy on the eyes Paige Turco (who has aged REALLY well, too. She's got that Lori Loughlin thing going on).  There's conflicting ideals as to why this happened.  Some places will tell you that Judith Hoag didn't want to come back because she wasn't happy with the first film for some reason (her performance, editing).  But, there's also that demographic thing where people think she was replaced because she wasn't commercially attractive enough.  Regardless, besides the performer, April is completely different this time around.  Turco realizes the film she's in and wants to have fun with the Turtles and plays it like she's in a cartoon.  Aside from David Warner, most everyone, even the Shredder feel they are in a live action cartoon.
If we look at where changes were made, its almos that they stopped following the comics for the source material and went right for the cartoon.  Shredder's purple outfit is now more purple.  We get the Turtles much more like the cartoon.  We also introduce Bebop and...oh wait...apparently Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird didn't want to jump through legal hoops to attain rights to use them for this movie.  So, we get Tokka and Rahzar.  Which really in essence is a major disappointment.  They're cool creatures (kind look like they could fit in with the Chuck E Cheese/Showbix Pizza band a tad, don't they?), and its only a solid step forward in sequel realm that the Turtles fight against other mutants...but damn.  Bebop and Rocksteady is what we want.  We do get the Super Shredder for a few seconds.  And while Super Shredder is ultimately a complete dumbass that kills himself, his does look pretty badass and they don't abuse him and show him for too long a segment so we can always desire more and say he looked cool.  He's as stupid as his mutants, but man, scary and cool.
Yes, I'm going to talk about Vanilla Ice.  This film was one big 90s product placement tour.  There is crap all around this movie that's sell sell selling.  But, nothing bigger than having one of the most giant music stars of the time having his music video right in the middle of your movie.  This scene is ridiculous.  However, its so ridiculous its hilarious and awesome at the same time.  And no matter how much hate you bring to the table, you'll have Go Ninja Go Ninja Go stuck in your damn head.  This was Ice's big launching pad into feature films, allowing him to star in the immortal classic Cool As Ice (which I should find an excuse to talk about one day...oh wait, I did, click on the Fave Films Of My Lifetime retro).
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II is not a good movie at all.  Its actually a flat out disappointment following the incredibly strong first film.  I enjoyed it as a young lad, but going back in my 20s and even now as an adult, its just not a very good time for an adult.  That said, whether it be some sort of misplaced nostalgia or whatnot, this film is still pretty watchable.  While there is some terrible stuff in here, there's also some terrible stuff to laugh at and with.  And the fight scenes in the film are actually still pretty solid when they're not using cold cuts to fight goons.  The film is a very inoffensive 82 minutes, so you're not in it for some long dragging hull like a bad Transformers movie would have you do.  I think the thing is that this movie's first goal is to promote fun and just have a good time at the expense of making a movie to be taken seriously.  No, its light years from the quality of the first movie, but if you have to watch it, its pretty easy to make it through this one and there's enough here to put a smile on your face more than a scowl.  Its the kids movie everyone expected the first movie to be, but unfortunately came after expectations and the bar were set pretty high with the first film.

Next Time: The Ninja Turtle movie that everyone wanted!

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