For a reason revealed later on, I had to watch this movie again as I haven’t seen it in years and I realized to make a proper review I had to. But I felt this could be fun, seeing if my grade’s changed. It didn’t but almost did, and despite the movie’s faults, I found myself enjoying a fair amount of it.
So after the last film, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Donnie, Mikey, Raph and Leo (their age and team status not in that order) were able to rescue their rodent father from the Shredder and Foot Clan and the army had to disperse. Now the turtles and Splinter are hiding out in April’s apartment while they try to figure out a new permanent place to live, since it wouldn’t be wise to go back to their original sewer home with their enemies still active. Meanwhile, a company called Techno Global Research Industries (TGRI) is cleaning up some sort of strange chemical spill, and when April (this time played by Paige Turco, who manages to fill Judith Hoag’s shoes more than fine) reports on it and Splinter recognizes the name, he reveals this company manufactured the ooze that turned the five of them into mutants. Realizing this they investigate the company further, only to find the Foot is after this mutagen too, and the turtles can’t ignore what the army could do with them using something like that as a weapon. Fortunately, they have a new friend Keno (Ernie Reyes Jr.) ready to help save the day.
I really recently gave a very positive review to the 1990 original, and for most people who like that one, they like this one too, so my grade is probably surprising, but there are reasons. The opening begins cheerily, as we see all sorts of New Yorkers, even a bride with her groom and two officers arresting someone, enjoying themselves with pizza slices, mysteriously all plain cheese. We then enter Roy’s Pizza on a busy midnight rush, and you can really smell the delicious crust and pepperoni.
But then as Keno accidentally intercepts and attempts to stop a huge masked robbery and the turtles come to his rescue when reinforcements show up, there’s a significant and noticeable shift in tone from the first movie. We witness the turtles easily take down the shocked bandits with cold cuts and yoyo tricks and posing as a wet-willie-making prop. And considering how in real life some of these robbers would be armed, there’s a realization: The movie is missing the chills and relatable melancholy the first film brought with its intuition towards troubled teenagers. Its predecessor kept the goofy spirit of the cartoon through the turtles while also being brave enough to discuss people who feel they don’t belong in the world established for them.
However, even if I didn’t really like the opening montage, when the movie then quickly dives into its TGRI story and the Foot Clan trying to regroup, my pessimism was mostly gone. I liked how the movie keeps up the established Foot Clan army storyline by picking up not long after the first instalment. It was a good familiar-yet-new sort of packaging.
Ernie Reyes Jr. is a terrific addition to the feature. He gives Keno the spirit and likability of someone who both practices martial arts and reads comic books (presumably). Also, the dialogue between the Turtles feels naturally perky and sometimes extreme. The animatronics for the turtles and for Splinter are still as enjoyable as ever, maybe even a bit more polished. There are some scenes where you look at the turtles’ eyes (especially Mikey’s) and you somehow see a legitimate, emotional face (during the few quiet scenes it works best).
But the costumes for Tokka and Rahzar, the Shredder’s new mutant sidekicks, are a very different story. I hate to admit it but they seem tremendously unpolished, and making them deliberately dumb and comedic relief made their movements look like a first-draft stop motion project, and it seemed like their minimal dialogue was all they were built to be able to say.
The Vanilla Ice song too? Of “Go Ninja, Go Ninja Go”? A lot of people love that song in the movie but I found it and the circumstance both pretentious and dumbed down, like a famous rock-song censored for the school dance. When the song happens, with Tokka and Rahzar (pretty hilariously) belching themselves inside out, you get the impression this whole Turtles production is focusing more on comedy rather than the drama of the first one, and if you go in knowing that, it will be easier to enjoy.
So honestly, it’s not a horrible sequel. The main problem I had with the movie though, is Master Splinter. Out of all the Ninja Turtle characters throughout the various incarnations, he’s the one that’s most unpredictable in his attitude, and in this one he’s crabby and punishing. Pardon me, but it’s aggravating how the turtles literally saved his life in the last film and he instructs them to do ten back flips for what in his eyes is petulant disobeying when it really isn’t. In fact, I didn’t care for Splinter so much that I never found any desire to rewatch the film, and my initial grade was much lower than my grade today before time went on and I realized my prior opinion may have been too reflexive.
Upon revisiting it yesterday, my annoyance was still present, especially how he is completely against going after the Foot Clan despite their dangers, and near the end he’s against Keno helping the turtles out even though he knows his sons could be killed and the Shredder lives on (and if Keno didn’t end up coming, who knows what could’ve happened?!). Then he shows complete disappointment towards his sons despite the fact they accomplished their goals and the circumstance was not entirely their fault. It’s almost like he’s mad about things in the world he can’t control and takes it out on his sons.
A lot of people who are fans of the Ninja Turtles in general really love The Secret of the Ooze. Its middle act has a lot of spirit towards the actual cartoon. But I wasn’t able to fully embrace it.
If you like this, I’d try the other early Ninja Turtle movies, and the 1987 original cartoon