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

TMNT-III know that this is grounds for getting my “90’s Kid” membership card stripped from my hands, but the more I see “TMNT II,” the more I dislike it. Yes, it has camp value thanks to Vanilla Ice, but nostalgia lens aside, it’s a pretty crummy follow up to the 1990 movie. It’s basically the “Batman Forever” of the original TMNT movie series, a movie that waters down the formula of the Ninja Turtles. Hell, even like “Batman Forever,” the turtles are no longer urban legends working in the shadows, and become virtual celebrities by the climax. Much to the shock of everyone involved, 1990’s “TMNT” movie was a film for all ages that took violence seriously, and depicted actual consequences to actions and decisions.

It had kids smoking and gambling, and featured a very implied death of its major villain. Shredder inexplicably returns a few years after the events of the first film to take control of the Foot. After mysterious vegetation is discovered that could share the same chemical properties that mutated the turtles, Shredder kidnaps a scientist and begins deriving his own formula to build his own mutant army. Now the turtles have to stop him, while working alongside their new ally, aspiring ninja Keno an Asian pizza delivery boy who befriends the turtles and infiltrates the foot with Raphael. The writers completely back track by reviving Shredder in the most ridiculous string of logic, and lack thereof, and even turns him in to a goofy cartoon with the introduction of Super Shredder in the climax.

What’s worse is that the studio completely turns the Turtles in to less ninjas, and more goofballs with the ability outwit most of their villains. So when we meet them the second time, they rarely ever use their signature weapons and go out of their way to avoid implementing them in combat. Even when going up against foot solders in the opening, the Turtles never wield a sword or sai. Fans like me going in hoping to see Michelangelo kick ass with his nunchuks will be very disappointed to see him instead using yo-yo’s to beat down bad guys. The puppetry for the turtles is of diminished quality this time around, as well, with the turtles feeling more transparently artificial than ever (I always thought something looked off about Donatello).

“The Secret of the Ooze” for the most part dials down a lot of the menace and drama from the original, to amp up the laughs and speed up the pacing of the narrative. The sub-plot involving Raphael and Keno’s plan to infiltrate the foot clan is so much more exciting than it has any right to be, and really feels like it should have become the central plot. The movie inevitably trades it for more goofs and silliness involving monster foes Tokka and Rahzar, the Vanilla Ice introduction, and transforming the turtles in to a lot less competent heroes this time around. While it certainly isn’t as terrible as the third part in the series, it’s a pretty crummy follow up that’s aged very poorly and hasn’t held up against time. It’s a shame the turtles never returned to their original ninja elements until many years later.