The Good: Starts out well, Smart recasting, Decent effects
The Bad: Utterly corny humor, Lack of important explanations, Poor Blu-Ray bonus features.
The Basics: Perfectly average, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze is just a little better than the original, but still not quite worth buying.
It seem that when I reviewed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (click here for that review), I left some with the impression that I resented my wife her love of the campy comic book movie classic. In truth, nothing could be further from the truth. I love her and I think she has (usually) great taste and I am often thrilled to revisit the things from her past that she loved. Even so, it unsettled me somewhat to realize that my wife was younger than my baby-sitting charge back in high school and that my wife has a deep love of kitsch. Still, following on the heels of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, we got out another pizza and popped in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze. This sequel is one of the rare times a sequel is better than the original, though that is not saying much.
Picking up where Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ended, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze is a second live-action film in the franchise based upon the comic book series. The sequel replaced Judith Hoag as April O'Neil, disappeared Casey Jones, April's boss and his son and adds Keno and more muppet-tastic opponents for the Turtles. But while the film has a decent start, which is filled with one major plot hole that is never satisfactorily explained, the latter half of the movie collapses in upon itself. Still, despite a dance number featuring Vanilla Ice, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze actually has some pretty impressive messages and gets the talents of some truly great performers!
It is impossible, however, to discuss some of the flaws and even the basic plot of this sequel without revealing minor spoilers about how the first film ended. That said . . .
Having saved New York City from the Foot Clan and the Shredder, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello, and Raphael - and their mentor, Master Splinter have moved in with April O'Neil. Unable to return to their sewer home because the Foot Clan knows the location of their home, they make April's life an annoyance. But when the pizza delivery boy, Keno, breaks up a robbery at the shopping center near April's apartment, the Turtles have a chance to do what they do best: bust heads and crack wise. Having been revealed to Keno, they flee again and they soon realize that the Foot Clan has not been destroyed. In fact, Shredder's lieutenant, Tatsu, was about to take charge of the Foot Clan at their fallback position of the junkyard when Shredder miraculously appeared to him to take control!
As April O'Neil digs into the practices of the company that, as it turns out, created the mutagen which created Splinter and the Turtles. While Professor Perry tries to destroy the last of the industrial waste which created the Turtles and Splinter, Shredder's forces abduct Perry and force him to mutate two vicious animals. Thus, the mutants Tokka and Razahr are born and after a few initial complications, Shredder soon has them on a vandalism spree intended to draw out the Turtles. When Raphael is captured by the Foot Clan, it seems Shredder's plan will come to fruition and he will succeed in destroying the Turtles once and for all!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze is entirely campy, with throwback jokes to the original and a sense of style that is VERY 1980s. That said, the movie does move along at a decent pace and it dotes far less on the jokes that do not work than the original did. The movie is still filled with catch phrases ("Cowabunga," "Bodacious," etc.) and virtually constant pizza advertisements. There is less overt product placement in this sequel, which is nice.
In my review of the other film, I neglected to praise the film for its use of a puppet for Master Splinter. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze, Master Splinter is once again a virtual character, but the performance with the puppet is so good that he looks and feels like a truly real character. Indeed, outside Yoda, I cannot think of a virtual character from this era that was so effectively part of the reality of the world that it seemed perfectly natural. The puppeteering of Master Splinter is superior to the costuming of the Turtles!
What is problematic is that the Shredder's survival is never satisfactorily explained. Call me old fashioned, but when a villain is squished in a garbage truck, that usually means they are dead. Not so in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze. Instead, a reference to Shredder being deformed is made, but otherwise, he returns and only poor Tatsu is directly inconvenienced by this gaping plot hole.
On the plus side, the acting is actually professional caliber in this movie. David Warner joins the cast as Professor Perry. Warner has made classy appearances in genre works before, most notably Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country where he played the Klingon Chancellor Gorkon. In this film, he is forced to bob his head to the works of Vanilla Ice and he does it credibly. While Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze is filled with campy moments and melodramatic overacting, none of that comes from Warner.
Similarly, Paige Turco who takes on the mantle of April O'Neil works wonderfully in the role. Turco, who I'd only seen on NYPD Blue prior to this, lends a professionalism to O'Neil that was lacking in the first movie. She also seems more realistically able to emote and not to react the fantastic elements in the movie. This works well for selling the reality of the film's world.
Otherwise, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze is filled with well-choreographed battle scenes and a strong positive message which holds strong until the last act when the Turtles are compelled to enter a dance club to save people and the movie derails for a Vanilla Ice song and dance number. The search for the new Turtle lair is far better than that.
On Blu-Ray, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze is disappointingly sparse. The disc only has the film's trailer. Ultimately, there is not quite enough to recommend this sequel, though it is a step up from the original and it plays well for most of the movie.
For other action-oriented films intended for younger audiences, please check out my reviews of:
Land Of The Lost
For other movie reviews, please check out my index page for an organized list!
© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.