Superhero Movie Month: "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II" Review

Photo Credit: New Line Cinema

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Rating: PG
Length: 88 minutes
Release Date: March 22, 1991
Directed by: Michael Pressman
Genre: Action / Adventure / Comedy

At the end of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," villain Shredder (Fran├žois Chau) was thrust into a garbage truck, seemingly crushed by the compactor. At the beginning of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze," the audience finds out that Shredder has survived his brush with death and is madder than ever at the Turtles. He vows to destroy them using the titular secret ooze. The ooze mutates its victims and is, in fact, the same substance that changed Donatello (Leif Tilden), Raphael (Kenn Scott), Leonardo (Mark Caso) and Michelangelo (Michelan Sisti) from normal little turtles into crime-fighting ninjas.

Shredder hatches a plan to get more of the secret ooze from its creator Jordon Perry (David Warner), who is the very definition of a nutty professor. Shredder kidnaps Perry and forces him to create more of the glowing goo in order to defeat the Turtles. He uses it on a cute German shepherd puppy named Rahzar (Mark Ginther) and a turtle named Tokka (Kurt Bryant), and the animals instantly mutate into giant versions of themselves. They are not too bright, but they can destroy things and are willing to do everything that Master Shredder tells them to do.

Meanwhile, the Turtles are happily living out their lives with master Splinter (Kevin Clash) and intrepid reporter April O'Neil (Paige Turco), whose apartment they have moved into. They eat copious amounts of pizza, are addicted to tabloids and don't seem to have a care in the world, because they think their nemesis is dead. The biggest excitement in their lives is when an exasperated April begs them to clean up the pizza boxes and other detritus from her home. The turtles face a rude awakening when Rahzar and Tokka make themselves known, forcing them back into action as ninjas. Some very funny fight scenes, an elaborate disco sequence and lots of slimy ooze combine to make "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze" a rollicking good time for fans of the Turtles. The turtles get quite a bit of help from their pizza delivery guy, Keno (Ernie Reyes Jr.), who has fast feet and some fairly impressive ninja moves of his own.

The first film basically followed the canon of the source material, which is a series of comic books. The extraordinarily popular cartoon series followed the comics, and then the first live-action movie hit the silver screen. Fans who had read the comics and seen the cartoon series were ecstatic by the first movie, though it was still fun for casual fans. "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze" seems like it was purposely written so that the casual fans could have as much fun as the diehards, making it accessible to a much wider audience. If this was the goal, the filmmakers succeeded wildly, because the film has a little something for everyone, even people who have never seen the cartoon or read any of the comic books.

The sequel has some marked improvements from the first film, not the least of which is the costumes, which seem more realistic. It is not easy to make giant turtle suits that allow actors to fight, but the Jim Henson Creature Shop did a fine job. The addition of Keno is also a big plus, giving the film another competent human in a world where humans are mostly buffoonish. The actor playing Keno, Ernie Reyes Jr., actually played one of the Turtles in the first movie, so it makes sense that he gets to break out of his shell (pun intended) to play a pizza delivery boy harboring some major martial arts skills. The replacement of Judith Hoag as April barely registers a blip on the radar, so there is no distraction to take away from the action and comedy.

The turtles spend far less time in the sewers from whence they came this time, so the setting of this sequel is also very different from the original. By moving into April's apartment, director Michael Pressman literally and figuratively sheds light on the turtles, with a portion of the movie dedicated to explaining how the ooze turned them into the creatures they are today. This is yet another reason why this movie appeals to a mass audience, rather than just Ninja Turtle purists who already know how the turtles came to be. There are several jokes aimed at parents to keep them happy while they take their kids enjoy the wild ninja action. In the entertainment industry, attempts to make everyone happy usually results in a watered down film that fails to accomplish what it set out to do, but "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze," bucks that trend and truly does entertain everyone.