Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991) / Action-Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG for violence and some rude humor
Running Time: 88 min.
Cast: Paige Turco, David Warner, Ernie Reyes Jr., Mark Caso, Michelan Sisti, Leif Tilden, Kenn Troum (Scott), Kevin Clash (voice), Francois Chau, Toshiro Obata, Raymond Serra, Kevin Nash, Vanilla Ice, Earthquake, Brian Tochi (voice), Laurie Faso (voice), Adam Carl (voice), David McCharen (voice), Michael McConnohie (voice), Frank Welker (voice)
Director: Michael Pressman
Screenplay: Todd W. Langen (based on characters created in the comic book by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird)
Review published November 13, 2006
For those that enjoyed the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, the sequel continues much of the juvenile humor, campy tone, and cheesy charm that you've come to know, love and expect. In other words, it is for fans of the first film only, so if you're looking for things to improve in any significant way, you won't find it here. As far as sequels go, it stays faithful to the first film in all of the important ways, despite the switch in the actress that plays April O'Neill to Paige Turco (Urbania, "NYPD Blue") and a different director in Michael Pressman (Doctor Detroit, The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training) . If there is any significant difference, it's that this one plays up the comedic aspect much more, akin to the popular animated cartoon series, featuring more interplay and catchphrases between the four turtle characters, with a toning down of the dark violence, and even the bad guys have their own goofy comic qualities. In terms of quality, like most sequels, it's not quite as good as the first film, but at least it's not too far off the mark.
In this entry, Shredder (Chau, Beverly Hills Ninja) is back, having apparently survived the near-fatal events at the end of the first film, and he reasserts his position as the head of the dreaded ninja gang running the underworld of New York City, the Foot. Shredder is intrigued by reports of a clean-up operation in removing some toxic ooze that has been causing mutations in some living things it contacts, which he believes may be of use in getting revenge on the Turtles and Master Splinter for standing in the way of complete domination. He manages to steal away the last remaining container of the ooze, which he uses to create his own mutant creations to battle the Turtles and wreak havoc on the city. It's up to the Ninja Turtles, along with help from scientist Prof. Jordan Perry and their new human teenage fighting buddy Keno (Reyes Jr., The Rundown), to stop Shredder's plans and get rid of the dreaded ooze once and for all.
I suppose the one thing that most people remember about TMNT II is the gratuitous appearance of Vanilla Ice (Cool as Ice), whose popularity was already plummeting at the time the film was finally released. While I'm certainly far from a Vanilla Ice fan, his appearance here isn't as detrimental to the film as you'd expect, although it does make the film seem rather un-hip. The series is cheesy enough that it can withstand just about any lapse in judgment, even an appearance from one of the world's least talented rappers. Thankfully he has nothing to do but an apparent impromptu song where he chants, "Go Ninja. Go!", although his scene is the low point of the film in terms of quality and focus, which is saying quite a bit.
Paige Turco is a workable April O'Neill, although not quite as spunky (or as redhead-ed) as Judith Hoag. her character is important to the story, but really, the acting requirements aren't particularly demanding, only really requiring a woman that looks good in a mini-skirt and an ability to perform mild physical comedy to play it. The character of Keno is a nice addition, with Ernie Reyes Jr., who worked as a fight double in the first film, showing a real talent for martial arts that blends in well with the rest of the performers. In fact, the choreography all-around is impressive, especially considering that most of the fighters had limited visibility and movement in their full-body costumes.
Although it loses steam as soon as Vanilla Ice rears his proverbial ugly head, there's enough here to warrant a viewing for series fans. No one else really need apply, as this film doesn't try to gain new fans so much as to please the ones they already have. Needless to say, kids will enjoy this much more than adults, although there is a nostalgia value for those that watched this at the time of its theatrical release. However, even fans of the series will probably recognize that the tank was already on "E" quite a ways before the film's final battle, and with only residual fumes to run on, it thankfully comes to a mercifully hasty conclusion before tedium sets in.
-- Followed in 1993 with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III and TMNT.
©2006 Vince Leo