It is universally recognized that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze is not as good as its predecessor (which, itself, was hardly loved by critics). I took it upon myself to re-watching my favorite childhood franchise, start to finish and see just how it’s held up these past few decades. The heroes in a half-shell had their work cut out for them in their previous movie, and against all odds they were victorious over both the foot clan and the box office naysayers of 1990. With huge success the Turtles were green-lit for a second movie. Some of the major changes in the sequel came in the form of new characters, a more cartoony feel, a much larger budget, and less usage of the Turtles signature weapons. Not that the weapons weren’t there, just that many people complained about how dark and violent the first movie was. Their wishes were accommodated, despite consideration for if it would effect the movie at all.
Secret of the Ooze delves more deeply into the origins of the Turtles history. The angsty reptiles meet new friends and fight new enemies as they attempt to piece together the fragments of their past that has been dredged up quite unexpectedly. The mutigent that created them has been discovered to be toxic waste which is being disposed of by a scientific research firm. The foot clan decides that they want some mutants on their side (who wouldn’t, right?) and swipe the last bottle of the ooze in order to create Toka and Razar a pair of giant monstrosities the do the bidding of their master. Not only do the turtles have to stop Toka and Razar, they’re forced to confront the foot Clan once more. Shredder wanted a crime empire in the first Turtles movie, but in the follow up he’s after a much more enticing dish…revenge!
As was the case from the first movie, there is absolutely no lack of corny dialogue and bad puns. We’re treated to a veritable barrage of early 90s slang mixed with exaggerated teenaged emotions encapsulated in the shell of four giant turtles. The violence in the movie is toned down, but the budget is ramped up. While it’s certainly more akin to the cartoon than Turtles I the bigger budget allows for a more polished feel to the whole experience. At the time, the audience of the franchise was overwhelmingly children. Because of this, the Turtles walked a fine line between good family entertainment and hard hitting martial arts.
Secret of the Ooze is thoroughly enjoyable; at least I find it so. As a child this was my favorite of the three Turtle films I was accustomed to watching, and it’s undoubtedly attributed to three things. 1) A more polished sense of action. Sure, the weapons were used little to none in this film, but the action sequences were visually more entertaining and sleek than the first film. 2) The jokes land better than the previous installment. All the jokes in the franchise are groan worthy, but even watching the films now, I found the humor to be much more pungent in Ooze. 3) Vanilla Ice. As this came out in, arguably, the strangest decade I’ve had the privilege to live through, I absolutely found Vanilla Ice’s rendition of “Go Ninja” so compelling that it became my anthem for years. While these reasons stood strong for my childhood, I can’t help but realize just how mistaken I was. As fun as The Secret of the Ooze is, it shadows in comparison to the film that started the film franchise.