Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze Movie Review
The Turtles are back! After their successful first feature back in 1990, 20th Century Fox took interest in the property, launching a sequel fast!
Genre: Action / Adventure / Comedy
Director: Michael Pressman
Cast: Paige Turco, Ernie Reyes Jr, Brian Tochi, Robbie Rist, Adam Carl, Laurie Faso, François Chau, David Warner, Toshishiro Obata & Kevin Clash.
Run Time: 88 min.
US Release: 22 March 1991
UK Release: 09 August 1991
German Release: 18 July 1991
It is Superhero Sunday, which means continuing my sling of reviews for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles flicks. Today, I am going to revisit Secret of the Ooze, the second instalment of the 90s trilogy, as well as one of my favourites. If I didn’t make it clear enough in my last two posts - I am a HUGE TMNT fan! I grew up with the animated television cartoon, as well as the comics. This sequel holds a special place in my heart, as it was the first of the movies I saw, given to me by a friend of our family, who recorded it on TV. So, grab your Katanas, as we sneak through my review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze!
— WARNING, THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! —
With Shredder defeated plus the Foot Clan dispersed, the turtles start digging into TGRI, the company that produced the substance which mutated them. However, Shredder returns from the grave, learning about the Ooze, using it to enhance two creatures and himself. The four brothers need to prove once again who the better ninjas are.
The success of the first film fast-tracked a sequel in record time, also sprouting some concerns among adults. The dark atmosphere, in combination with the realistic violence, wasn’t thought suitable for kids. As such, producers pacified censors, ensuring that apart from Donatello’s Bo, the use of other weapons would be reduced to a minimum. Generally, it was decided to follow the outline of the animated series, rather than the comics, as did its predecessor.
The result is a mixed story, that surprisingly upholds quality, though could have been much better. It takes a valiant risk at adding a subplot, about the exploration of oneself, in terms of heritage from where one comes from. Generally, the dark atmosphere has been kept, faithfully depicting the world of the comics but leaning more on a lighter tone character-wise, similar to the animated series. The comedy might be sillier, however, it still does make one laugh. It is solid entertainment, though not as good as its predecessors.
The goofier comedic undertone came with a price, not fully suiting the serious premise. As such, it felt inconsistent. The behind-the-scenes tug-of-war is noticeable, with Casey Jones missing without explanation, as the studio tried to shift away from the violent tone. Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird vetoed the use of Bebop plus Rocksteady, who they felt were too stupid in the cartoons. As such, the mutant villains Tokka and Rahzar were created.
As in the preceding instalment, there is once again a ton of pop-cultural references, in terms of movies, food, just like music. That said, a lot of the dialogues are incredibly cheesy, to the point of crossing cringe territory. Once again, David McCharen would re-record Shredder’s voice in bad ADR.
Paige Turco replaced Judith Hoag as April O’Neil, as she had been reportedly difficult to work with, in the previous production. Turco did a good job portraying the reporter, she gave April a different approach, was softer, and more grounded.
Ernie Reyes Jr, who was the in-suit performer for Donatello in the former film, impressed producers so much, they created the character of Keno, specifically for him, instead of using an already-established character like Mondo, which would have suited Reys Jr. Keno is supposed to be a dialled-down version of Casey Jones, yet younger while still being hot-headed, reflecting Raph.
The four Turtles are further fleshed out, each personality being explored. Raph’s impatience, including his hot-headedness budds with Leo’s leadership style and eagerness to please their surrogate father Splinter. Mickey is the most content plus childish and Donatello’s interest in science, together with his tech-savviness finally shines through. That said, all four continue to have their silly, goofy charisma, which contrasts the dark plot.
François Chau replaced James Saito, as the physical form of Shredder. Finally, Kevin Clash returned to voice, just like puppeteer Master Splinter.
The camera work, just as with its predecessor, does hold up to date. It makes use of questionable close-ups and weird place cuts at times, however, the action is well-framed, with the in-suit performer's stunts doing some of their best acrobatics. The lighting can be once again a little dim, but the colour palette is more intense this time. For an early 90s comic-book adaptation, it contains energetically vibrant imagery.
The practical designs look once again incredible! The abandoned train station setting, which serves as the Turtles' new lair, was modelled after the real decommissioned N.Y. City Hall station. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop built once again the suits and animatronic masks for the four anthropomorphic reptiles. They also designed plus moulded the costumes for Tokka/Rahzar.
Vanilla Ice, who made a cameo scene in a night club segment, wrote “Ninja Rap”, becoming one of the most prominent songs in the picture. The original score was composed by John Du Prez.
Verdict: Michael Pressman, who was until then known for directing fast-tracked television pictures, took over directorial duties from Steve Barron. It is true that the rushed production, as well as studio interference to dial down the violence, can be felt in the final release. The characters are goofier, contrasting the gritty world around them. Shredder returns, as behind-the-scenes discussions, could not agree on what villain to use. Casey Johnes was benched, as he was believed to be too violent. A handful of the main cast from the first flick was recast. It is a miracle that Secret of the Ooze still turned out as fun as it did. Most of it is due to the deeper characterisation of the four mutant brothers, the solid rendition of April O’Neil by Paige Turco, and the positive message about the exploration of oneself. The cinematography is good, as are the stunt fights in suits. The practical rubber costumes with animatronic masks stay once again true to their comic counterparts. All in all, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II is a step down from the first action-adventure, yet still deserves a 7.0 out of 10.
Which TMNT movie is your favourite? Do you agree with my review? Leave a message in the comment section & as always, thank you very much for reading!