Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze

Here we are again with Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I try to turn my lazy Sundays on the couch watching DVDs into something productive.  I'm working my way through the live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and today we get to the second installment, The Secret of the Ooze.  This pops up in my notes at December 1, 2013.  

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II Movie Poster

Continuing my trip through the TMNT live-action trilogy, we get to the second film, The Secret of the Ooze. It was kind of neat firing this up in the Blu-Ray player today. I never got it on VHS when I was a kid, and I don't remember ever getting my parents to rent it for me from the corner store, so I'm pretty sure this is the first time I saw it from beginning to end since I first saw it in theatres way back in the spring of 1991. So what did this film give the world besides the Vanilla Ice's magnum opus, Ninja Rap?

(I remember reading the official movie magazine back in the day, in which Vanilla Ice admits he wrote most of that song in his limo on his way to a concert at the Toronto SkyDome.) 

So, watching this sequel, right away you can tell it's different from the first one.  I mentioned how the first one was kind of dark and full of that "low-budget made-in-the-80s" grit...but this one is so much brighter and so much more kid-friendly.  If the first film took its cues from the original Eastman and Laird comics, then this one definitely took its cues from the 1987 cartoon.  Everything is brighter, the pop culture references are greater and more plentiful. 

Taking its cues from the 1987 cartoon, we are also presented with our two evil mutants, Tokka and Rahzar; a mutant snapping turtle and wolf, respectively.  Of course, the question I had back in the day was why these two original mutants and not the cartoon mainstays of Bebop and Rocksteady?  Well, doing some research online, it appears that there's some dispute over the creation of Bebop and Rocksteady.  Turtle creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird say they created them when the makers of the toys asked for more mutants.  David Wise, one of the writers of the 1987 cartoon, says he created them when the producers of the cartoon asked for more mutants.  So what I've learned from this is that, when the second film rolled around, someone else owned the rights to Bebop and Rocksteady, thus leading to the creation of two original mutants for the film. 

That's not the only change in the film.  We have a new actress playing April O'Neil.  Casey Jones is gone, and no mention made of him.  Instead, for a new human sidekick, we get Kino, a young Asian-American pizza delivery boy who has his own martial arts prowess and becomes a sidekick to the Turtles.  Fun trivia fact:  Kino was played by Ernie Reyes Jr, who was actually Donatello's fight double in the first movie.  Again, remembering the official movie magazine from back in the day, the role of Kino was created specifically for Reyes because the producers loved working with him so much in the first film  He's fun, but he does make for one teenager too many with our hero turtles. 

The last of our new characters is Professor Jordan Perry, played by acting royalty David Warner.  Professor Perry is one of the original scientists that developed the ooze that created our heroes and the villainous mutants.  When we first meet him in the film, he's finally rounding up and safely disposing of all the canisters of ooze.  But he and the last canister of ooze are captured by Shredder, who forces Perry to use the ooze to create Tokka and Rahzar.  Upon being rescued by the Turtles, and telling them about the creation of the ooze and thus their origins (the titular "secret of the ooze"), he creates an anti-mutagen to help defeat Tokka and Rahzar.  It's all fairly absent-minded professor stuff.  But to have an actor like Warner playing it is remarkable.  His delight at the scientific implications of meeting the Turtles...it's almost like a proud father.  It's such a small moment, but it's good. 

You may remember the plot, if you haven't figured it out by now.  Shredder survived the first film, and vows revenge upon the Turtles.  April does a new story on Professor Perry and his clean-up efforts, thus sparking the Turtles' interest in Perry and finally uncovering the truth about their origin.  Shredder also hears of it, and wants to use the ooze to create an army of mutants to destroy the Turtles once and for all.  With the final canister of ooze and Professor Perry as his prisoner, Shredder creates Tokka and Rahzar.  Can the Turtles defeat these evil mutants and save the city?  Of course they can. 

As I said last time, noticing the similarities to Star Wars in the first film was my first introduction to a film's formula.  It was a lesson well learned, as I was able to quickly see the similarities to the first film as I first watched this second one.  And also like the first one, the true stars are the animatronic Turtles, and Tokka and Rahzar.  Truly, some of the best work out of Jim Henson's Creature Shop.  This film is actually dedicated to Henson, as he passed away shortly after the first film came out. 

Watching it now, with my older eyes, it's a fairly juvenile and routine action film, but you know what?  It's fun.  It's silly.  It's enjoyable. 

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