Mark Caso/Brian Tochi (Voice) - Leonardo
Michelan Sisti/Robbie Rist (Voice) - Michelangelo
Leif Tilden/Adam Carl (Voice) - Donatello
Kenn Troum/Laurie Faso (Voice) - Raphael
Kevin Clash - Splinter
Paige Turco - April O'Neill
David Warner - Professor Jordan Perry
Ernie Reyes, Jr. - Keno
Francois Chau/David McCharen (Voice) - The Shredder
Toshishiro Obata/Michael McConnohie (Voice) - Tatsu
Genre - Fantasy/Action/Comic Book/Martial Arts
Running Time - 88 Minutes
Days after the events of 1990's TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES, the Ninja Turtles and Splinter are living with ace reporter, April O'Neill (Paige Turco), while still fighting small crime all over New York City. Even though our heroes think their biggest threat is over, they don't realize that the evil Shredder (Francois Chau/David McCharen) has survived getting crushed by a trash compactor. Pissed off and wanting revenge, Shredder returns to the frazzled Foot Clan and takes over his rightful leadership.
Shredder, realizing that the Foot Clan isn't enough to stop his adversaries, is captivated by a news report about some sort of clean up of toxic ooze by a company called TGRI - run by Professor Jordan Perry (David Warner). The ooze has been mutating local life nearby the spill, giving Shredder an idea to mutate his own animals to combat the Turtles. The Foot Clan manages to steal the last canister of ooze from the Turtles, which Shredder uses on a snapping turtle and a dog to create Tokka and Rahzar. Realizing the threat is more serious now as these creatures are terrorizing New York City, The Turtles get help from Professor Perry and a local pizza delivery guy, Keno (Ernie Reyes, Jr.) to stop the Shredder's reign of terror once and for all.
- "Go, Ninja! Go, Ninja, Go!" TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES II: THE SECRET OF THE OOZE is not quite as good as the first film, mainly due to its rushed state and the story itself. But it's probably just as memorable as the first film, if not more. And if any moment in this sequel has become a part of pop culture, it's the night club sequence in the final act with The Turtles, the Foot Clan, and Tokka and Rahzar crashing a Vanilla Ice concert. I watched TMNT II in theaters back in 1991 at the age of 10, so I remember the Vanilla Ice phase quite clearly. I think even by this point, Mr. Ice was losing his popularity due to him losing cred for lying about his rough street life, which turned to be anything but - although COOL AS ICE hadn't been released yet, which has now gained cult status.
While his presence does date the film a whole lot, Vanilla Ice actually adds a bit of charm and nostalgia to the moment. The "Ninja Rap" isn't a great song to be honest, but it's catchy as hell and makes you want to do the Turtle dance. The song adds a lot to the fight scene, which has the Turtles adding dance moves to their fight choreography. I loved this scene when I was younger, and I do enjoy it now. Sure, it's cheesy and ridiculous. I shake my head every time I see this scene, but I do it with a smile on my face. It's probably one of two moments [besides the Super Shredder deal that happens shortly after] that I always remember about this film. To be honest, I think this is the sequel's best moment and Vanilla Ice had a lot to do with that. Probably the only time you'll see me write that.
- The animatronics. The Jim Henson Creature Shop had their hands, again, on TMNT II - although founder Jim Henson had tragically passed away. In fact, this film was the first one to dedicate itself to Mr. Henson before THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL did the year after. While the Turtles look a bit different [I think more spots are added to their skin and their heads look changed a bit], I think the costumes are actually better this time around. With a bigger budget, the Creature Shop was able to really time the Turtles lips to the voice actors, as you would believe these Turtles are actually voicing themselves [there were a few synching issues in the first film]. The costumes move better as well, as the actors inside of them seem more at ease in terms of performing fight choreography and anything active. Same goes to Tokka and Rahzar, although they look a bit more cartoonish then the more serious looking Turtles do. Still, they look distinct and are well put together. I also dug the look for Super Shredder, although we don't get to see much of him unfortunately. But it's so over-the-top in terms of his appearance, that it works. I thought the Jim Henson Creature Shop did a solid job here and Mr. Henson would be proud.
- The acting. Let's just get it straight - the acting isn't going to win any awards here. But each person plays their role well and I didn't find anyone particularly bad. The voice actors are just as good as in the first film, with the actors in the costumes being better due to the costumes having more mobility. I do miss Corey Feldman doing the voice of Donatello [I believe he was struggling with drugs during this point and may have went to rehab, not sure], but Adam Carl is a fine replacement. Paige Turco is a much hotter April O'Neill and she does well with what she's given. I personally prefer Judith Hoag in the role [I believe she wanted more money to do the sequel and New Line Cinema refused], but Turco isn't all that bad. Ernie Reyes, Jr. isn't the greatest actor - he's a better martial artist - but he's likeable as Keno. He makes for an eager sidekick and his energy is infectious. David Warner is the best actor, bringing a bit of class and fun to the role of Professor Perry. And Kevin Nash, popular professional wrestler, appears in his first film as Super Shredder. All he does is destroy a pier and does a great job at it! No complaints here.
- The direction and tone. Michael Pressman does a good job continuing what previous director, Steve Barron, had started. While Barron had trouble sticking to a certain tone in the first, Pressman maintains a constant fun and silly tone for the first sequel. A lot of people consider TMNT II the BATMAN FOREVER of the franchise, as this one is more based on the cartoon style while the original TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES is a lot grittier and darker in tone. While I do miss some of the darker themes the first one presented, I can't fault New Line for wanting to make a more family friendly film that resembled more of the animated series that was probably at its peak in 1990-1991. There's a lot more light in this installment, and the colors are saturated nicely. The editing is good. The pacing is great, as the film moves really quick. The action is shot well and are fun to watch. Pressman does a nice job on this film, presenting an entertaining sequel that's a lot better than it ought to be considering it was released in less than a year from the first film. Kids will eat this film up, and that's the point.
- Less depth and substance compared to the first film. TMNT II suffers from the usual case of sequelitis - more characters, bigger budget, and less focus on the story and plot compared to the first film. Now I know what you're thinking - this film is made for kids and kids won't care about character development and deep subplots that will resonate long after the film is over. Hell, I probably didn't care when I watched this 21 years ago. I just wanted to have a fun time.
Still, I can't help it if I feel a lack of a strong story makes this sequel feel inferior to the film before it. While the film does continue the story established in the first film, it feels like a 88-minute epilogue rather than changing the status quo and building to another sequel that people will want to see. TMNT II pretty much follows the same template as the first one, but in a cartoonish and more comedic sort of way. The film is very simple and so straightforward, only an idiot wouldn't understand what story the movie is trying to tell. But it feels like we've already seen this film before at times, just with different characters and different actors. That's not a bad thing in terms of making money, but besides the final act, the rest of the film is so simple that it's not really memorable in the end.
The first film was rich in subplots for every major character. This was aided by injecting various themes within these plots that would intertwine with each other to create a cohesive comic book adaptation. You had the family theme involving The Turtles and Splinter, Charles and Danny, the members of the Foot Clan, and even Shredder and Splinter themselves. You had the friendship theme with Raphael and Casey Jones, April with the Turtles, and Danny with Splinter. You also had the theme of revenge with Shredder and Splinter, along with The Turtles and Shredder. I'm just saying that while the first film was aimed for children, adults could appreciate the storylines intertwining and leaving the theater with stuff in the story that resonated with them on an emotional level. Each character had their own arc and they all connected in the final act. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES was a family film, but it was a smart and somewhat mature family film.
I'm not saying that the simpler story in this film is terrible. It isn't and fans will have fun with the popcorn entertaining the familiar structure provides. But it's just disappointing that the first film had a lot going on and this film takes the easy route. As much as I dislike TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III, at least it did something different. This film just feels like a lesser version of the first film. Shredder was a huge threat in the first film. Here? He's a joke and there's no real opposition for the Turtles here.
I think if New Line wanted to make the series more like the popular cartoon, they should have really gone for it. Speaking of cartoons...
- Where's Bebop and Rocksteady? I don't hate Tokka and Rahzar, although they don't get much to do. In fact, they really don't add much conflict for the Turtles here, as the Turtles take them out pretty easily once they figure out how. I felt Tokka and Rahzar were there just to stress Shredder out and create comedic moments when the two mutants saw Shredder as their mother. Still, it's nice to see Shredder allying himself with mutant creatures to combat the Turtles. But why not Bebop and Rocksteady, who fans are familiar with?
Apparently, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were against the two characters being in the film for whatever reason. So the producers created Tokka and Rahzar instead - who at least do appear in canon later on in the cartoons and the video games. It kind of sucks because I would have loved to have seen the cartoon stuff actually come to life in this installment. I'm talking about Bebop, Rockstead, Krang, Dimension X, the Technodrome, Slash, etc. The tone of the film is there, but I think it would have been cool to see the franchise go all the way with it. I understand they couldn't get the rights to make that happen unfortunately, but it would have been great.
Another thing - where was Casey Jones? If this film takes place days after the events of the first film, would he be around for April and as an easy ally for the Turtles? His lack of presence takes away something from this sequel. Keno is okay, but he's no Casey Jones. They got him back for III for some strange reason, when I think he would have fit in better in this sequel. The entertainment industry is so strange.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE MAKING ANOTHER FUNNY
- After a trio of girls rejected him, Keno said that he'll dream of girls much thinner. And I'm sure they'll dream of someone much bigger, if the stereotype is true.
- April O'Neill found a toy snake in her fridge, knowing it was Michelangelo who had put it there. If she had alcohol in the fridge, I would have guessed Jake Roberts.
- The ooze mutates whatever absorbs it, plant or animal. Snoop Dogg really wants his hand on this stuff...for educational purposes, of course.
- After playing an official game of football with the Foot Clan over the cannister of ooze, The Turtles fumbled and lost it to the Foot. That's like going to the Super Bowl and choking for four straight years. The Ninja Turtles are the Buffalo Bills of Superheroes.
- Michael Jai White auditioned to be a Foot Soldier. It was hell and back to become a SPAWN for the organization.
- Apparently the creation of Splinter and The Turtles was a "big mistake". Not true. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation was the big mistake. Yeesh.
- The Turtles tried to give an antidote to Tokka and Rahzar via donuts, but they didn't fall for it. Obviously. They're a snapping turtle and a dog, not two pigs!
- Wrestler Kevin Nash played Super Shredder, but wasn't given much screen time. I guess his performance didn't Kliq with the filmmakers.
THE FINAL HOWL
While it's not as good as the first film, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES II: THE SECRET OF THE OOZE is still a fun, silly film that brings a lot of nostalgic value if you were alive at the time to live through the whole Ninja Turtles phase. While the story is inferior to the previous film and it's disappointing to not see certain characters from the cartoon finally make an appearance here instead of Tokka and Rahzar, the tone is constant, the direction is good, the acting is competent, and the memorable moments [Ninja Rap, Super Shredder] still put a smile on your face. For a rushed sequel, it's a lot better than it has any right to be. I still get a kick out of this one after 21 years.