A movie like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze will separate you, my dearest readers, into two distinct camps. Either: A) You were a child of the 80s and 90s, and the Ninja Turtles are an inescapable part of your pop culture heritage. B) You were simply born too early or late, and this film will amount to 88 minutes worth of poop on a shingle.
For better or worse, you can count me with the first answer. I watched the Ninja Turtles cartoons, saw the movies as fast as I could, and absolutely wore out the accompanying Nintendo game. Hell, I even had Vanilla Ice’s “Ninja Rap” on cassette single. There’s just no way around it: This movie provoked a cool drench of nostalgia. I’ll do my best to be unbiased, but you should take this review with a grain of salt.
With that disclosure out of the way, let’s break down the Ooze cruise, shall we? This sequel picks up some time after the first movie left off. Our favorite renaissance turtles are holed up with April O’Neil (Paige Turco, replacing Judith Hoag), an intrepid reporter who also serves as their loyal confidante. Splinter (voice of Kevin Clash), the wise old rat who mentors the turtles, is at a spiritual impasse as to whether they should remain in the sewers, or reveal themselves to the world.
Meanwhile, it seems that Shredder (François Chau), the boys’ most-feared nemesis, has somehow survived the events of the first film. He rises from the wretched depths of a moldering landfill to take his revenge on the turtles. (That might be the single weirdest sentence I’ve ever typed.) Shredder reassembles the Foot Clan, who are basically a bunch of wormy teenage boys who don’t even look mean enough to join the cast of Newsies. He also kidnaps a brilliant scientist (David Warner, no doubt cashing a fat paycheck) to mutate a wolf pup and a snapping turtle into Tokka and Rahzar, two gibbering, hulked-out Muppets meant to smush our heroes into green gravy, once and for all.
Okay, does all that seem as balls-out trippy to you as it does to me? I know children’s fare can venture out into left field, but holy hell. This is definitely a much stranger movie than I remember, and I was a weird little kid.
For all its aggressive oddity, Four Ninjas 2 still keeps things family-friendly. In fact, this is pretty toned-down from all the ass-kicking in the first film. Other than the two mutated freak-monsters–and, you know, Vanilla Ice–there really isn’t anything truly scary about this movie. If you want to share a piece of your childhood with your own young’ns, this is a pretty safe choice.
I’ll be honest: It’s tough to rate a movie like this. Does it have cheeseball one-liners and rickety special effects? Sure. Does it make me feel older than the mighty Redwoods to revisit it? You can bet your biscuits it does. Some films exist as time capsules. We don’t dig them up for how great they are, but to remind us of a different time in our lives. TMNT2 isn’t a masterpiece, but how could I ever hate on anything that makes me feel like a kid again?
88 minutes. PG. HBOMax.