BY JOHN CARTER JR
In an era where turtle mania seems to be having a resurgence with the recent Netflix Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem film slated for release later this year. Nickelodeon has been hard at work taking this almost evergreen IP and pumping out projects since its acquisition in 2009. With installments such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the 2012 series, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tv series, and The Jonathan Liebesman (Micheal Bay) Ninja Turtles films, the series has been kept alive.
The franchise has had its highs and lows in terms of the quality that has been served to its fanbase. However with an upcoming film that appears to be in a similar stylistic vein as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish another high may be on the horizon. With that prospect in sight let’s take a look back at a fan-favorite TMNT film.
Released in 1991 after the success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the previous year, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze was a major colorful and tonal shift. While the original film was dark and gritty, the sequel was more of a splash of neon-colored city nightlife. The film centers around the Turtles after the defeat of Shredder in the previous film until he and the foot clan return in a horrific revival. We learn about the ooze that made way for our beloved teenage protagonists and are introduced to beloved TMNT characters Tokka and Rahzar.
The opening confrontation with the foot clan perfectly illustrates the tonal shift with a lack of the turtles using their iconic weapons and the shift to using more comical gags as a means to fight their previous threatening foe. While Professor Perry, The new mutants, and the Super Shredder are now all iconic parts of TMNT history, it makes us wonder why mainstay characters like Baxter Stockman, Rocksteady, bebop, or krang weren’t chosen to make an appearance in this film. It almost feels like a major portion of the story is missing or has been changed and this isn’t always to the film’s benefit, with the greatest glaring problem that a secret of the ooze was never revealed.
The film thrives in similar ways the original did with the awesome aesthetic the Jim Henson Creature Shop puppets provide. However, the sequel falls a bit short in the story department. The loss of Judith Hoag as April O’Neil is certainly felt, The overall charm of the turtles and their rat dad Splinter are retained. While there is no Casey Jones in this installment, Ernie Reyes Jr’s Keno is a welcome addition.
The comedy is excellent here. The vibes the film gives off are less urgent this time around and more fun. The film is more akin to an 80s family film with a dash of action. However, what most certainly gives 90s vibes is a Vanilla Ice dance and party scene along with a song. Yes, this film has that too. The film ends with the turtles overcoming the new villains and the old with the squad ending up where they started at the beginning of the film. It pushes even further the notion that this film’s focus was on family fun rather than pushing the narrative of the dark tone of the previous film. Being more akin to an episodic sitcom episode where the status quo has not been changed by the end of it all.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze is a massively good time if you are looking for good laughs and comedic action. However, if you are looking for a successor to the dark gritty original with new narrative movement and character development, then this is not the TMNT movie for you. Its puppetry and aesthetic are as top-notch as the first film was. In the end, however, it helps convey what has been a struggle for the TMNT franchise since taking the property from the comics and adapting them: a balance between comedy and its dark action-based story.
While the original hit the mark and had a strong balance of both sides of the turtles this film heavily leaned towards that funnier side. With the upcoming 2023 Mutant Mayhem film we can only hope that they are able to strike a balance.
I give Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze 7/10 slices of pizza for being an all-around good time that kept me laughing but lacking in the story and tone I grew to enjoy with the turtles.