Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)

Directed by: Michael Pressman | 88 minutes | action, family, fantasy | Actors: Paige Turco, Mark Caso, Leif Tilden, David Warner, Michelan Sisti, Ernie Reyes Jr, Raymond Serra, Michael Pressman, Lisa Chess, Kurt Bryant, Mark Ginther, Kenn Scott, François Chau, Vanilla Ice

After the success of the first ‘live action film’ about the four turtles, a sequel was inevitable. ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: the Secret of the Ooze’ was released in 1991, when the hype surrounding these characters was at its peak. The print breaks with its predecessor by throwing the grim, violent atmosphere overboard and taking a comical approach. In the meantime, the Turtles had mainly managed to conquer children’s hearts with their cartoon series. The first film about the four ninjas was aimed at a teenage audience familiar with the original, harder comic about the turtles. Part 2 of the Turtles trilogy is a more kid-friendly film, with significantly less violence.

In ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: the Secret of the Ooze’, the four reptiles discover that their origin was an accident. Due to a combination of circumstances, a capsule full of radioactive gunk, ‘the ooze’, caused the mutation of the turtles. When their sensei, the rat Splinter, tells where the four brothers come from, Raphael (Kenn Scott) in particular struggles with his identity. The mutants are devastated and saddened by their existence that should not have been. But they don’t have much time to mourn. ‘The Shredder’ (François Chau), the Turtles’ sworn enemy, is back and out for revenge. The villain has a capsule of ‘ooze’ in his hands and wants to use the stuff to create mutants that will take on the four turtles. ‘The Shredder’ turns Tokka (Kurt Bryant), a snapping turtle, and Razhar (Mark Ginther), a wolf, into huge mutants. The strong Tokka and Razhar take on the ninjas.

Well, the story behind this second part is just nonsensical. The little bit of realism that characterized the first Turtles movie is gone. Where the original was still set in a reasonably recognizable society, in which youth gangs and crime occurred, nothing is left of this print. The world in which ‘TMNT II: the Secret of the Ooze’ takes place is a kind of runaway fairy tale where the villains are incredibly stupid and mean and the heroes are smart and noble. A cartoonish, idyllic world where no one has to suffer (any form of) pain. Actually, this print is a one and a half long episode of the classic Turtles cartoon, but in a ‘live action jacket’.

Director Michael Pressman may have removed all the sharp edges of the film, but the print is never boring or long-winded due to the smooth direction. Pressman guides the viewer through the story at a killer pace. The consequence of this approach is that the print has to do without deepening the character. New characters like Tokka and Razhar remain flat and now just hang around like loose sand. The actors try to make the most of it and deliver solid work. Oscar-winning performances are not included, but the play is sufficient.

Fortunately, the miserable character development is not disturbing. The Turtles themselves don’t come off unscathed and so the print is full of funny one-liners that the four reptiles are allowed to spew. As mentioned, the film rushes past you. Where the first print provided the viewer with hard action, this second part mainly offers you slapstick. Probably the aggressive nature of the original Turtles film did not go down well with concerned American parents, so the producers of this film were forced to offend no one this time.

The neat appearance in combination with a strong soundtrack by John Du Prez results in a cheerful film that especially children and inveterate Turtles fans will enjoy. Anyone who has passed on the intense but short-lived hype surrounding the four turtles can safely skip this film. Speaking of hypes, keep an eye out for the maligned white rapper Vanilla Ice who appears in a short role towards the end of the film.

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