Sunday, August 24, 2014

Film Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze" ** 1\2 (out of ****)

After reviewing the original live action version of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (1990) I kind of painted myself in a corner. I recommended that movie because I said children who would have seen the movie at that time would be very excited seeing their favorite characters "come to life" on the big screen. I went on to write the original version was like a live action cartoon. It had a playful tone to it which children would find appealing.

I suppose on some level I can say the same about "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II" (1991) and by that logic I should be recommending it. So, I haven't given myself much wriggle room to justify my not liking this sequel very much.

The biggest difference between the two movies I feel is this sequel is actually a step down. It is a "dumb down" version. But, then I have to remind myself, I am talking about a movie involving four human size, English speaking turtles who have been mentored by a talking rat. Exactly how "intelligent" was the original to begin with? What I mean is the original ninja turtles movie seemed to be geared towards children who were fans of the cartoon series, which originally ran between 1987 - 1996. I would imagine the audience for the first movie was probably children aged between 5-7 years old. "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II" seems geared towards children aged between 3-5 years old. The movie hasn't grown with its audience. Mind you only a year passed between the two films, but, who was this movie trying to reach?

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II" takes place where the first one left off. The turtles have killed Shredder (Francois Chau) the leader of a clan known as The Foot. They have been responsible for a rampant crime wave in New York City. Afraid The Foot might come after them, the turtles leave the sewer they lived in for 15 years and have moved in with their human friend, reporter April O' Neil (this time played by Paige Turco) while they look for a new place to live.

What our turtle friends don't realize is Shredder didn't die at the end of the first movie. He is alive and has discovered "the ooze" which have made the turtles what they are. Since The Foot and Shredder himself have failed to stop the turtles Shredder decides the best way to compete with the turtles is to create his own mutants.

Helping the turtles in this movie is another human, a pizza delivery boy, Keno (Ernie Reyes Jr.) he serves as a kind of replacement for Casey Jones, a character in the original movie played by Elias Koteas, who was a street thug that helped the turtles fight Shredder and The Foot.

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turles II" suffers from the same problem all sequels suffer from. It is basically a rehash of the original. It has little new to offer. It follows the formula of the first film, which was a box-office success grossing more than $100 million dollars. I would even go as far as saying a sequel wasn't necessary. It was all just an attempt to cash in and make more money off these characters, which was why the first movie was created, to capitalize off the success of the Saturday morning cartoon and all the merchandise associated with it.

The humor in this is juvenile and repetitive. It is a collection of pizza jokes expressing how much the turtles like to eat pizza. The director, Michael Pressman, and the writers couldn't even have the decency to make the movie somewhat interesting for mom and dad sitting in the audience.

This sequel gives Donatello (Mark Caso/ Adam Carl voice) and Leonardo (David Forman / Brian Tochi voice) a little more to do, which I felt was a problem with the original. It was difficult separate which turtle was which. Only Raphael (Kenn Troum / Laurie Fasco voice) and Michelangelo (Michelan Sisti / Robbie Rist) were given much to do in the first one and helped distinguish their personality traits.

The movie's original director Steve Barron, for whatever reason was not brought back. Michael Pressman seems to have suffered after directing this movie. He only directed one more feature film, a Michelle Pfeiffer vehicle, "To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday" (1996). After that he has only directed TV show episodes on programs such as "Weeds", "Law & Order" and "Blue Bloods". As is the case with Elias Koteas, Judith Hoag, who played April O' Neil is missing. She has said in interviews she was not asked to appear in this movie.

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II" has a more playful tone than the Michael Bay remake it, which I think is the right choice but this one just feels too silly and goofy. You can't take a story like this too serious, I understand that, but, this movie gives us nothing to really root for. It is just a collection of bad jokes, mostly delivered by the Michelangelo character and an opportunity to see Vanilla Ice. If you are too young to remember this movie's original release and/or are too young to remember Vanilla Ice, consider yourself lucky. The rest of us had to endure a time when a song called "Ice, Ice Baby" was popular.

While the first ninja turtles movie was no masterpiece, the sequel feels like an unnecessary retread. If you want to watch the turtles in a live action movie, just watch the first one. Also interesting is this sequel made less money than the first one. This sequel grossed $78 million perhaps suggesting audiences were a bit "turtled out". Cowabunga dude!