Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II is a beloved train-wreck of a film. In the heat of Ninja fever, the studio hauled ass to pump out a sequel and in 1991, less than a year after the first one, we got Secret of the Ooze. Unfortunately this sequel pizza came out half baked. It has the same large divide between audience and critics (68% vs 31% on Rotten Tomatoes) as TMNT I had but while the first movie attempted to give you the little things like an emotionally engaging story and character development, TMNT 2 makes no attempts at such trivialities and has instead done as countless other sequels have before them and doubled down on the one-liners and visual gags that worked the first time around.
With the half-shelled foursome’s origin story already told in part one, the inevitable fingerpaint-by-numbers revenge story is what followed in the sequel. Shredder discovers the mysterious ooze which mutated The Turtles into the tubular teens that they are, and uses it to create two mutants of his own to seek revenge on The Turtles, and oddly not Casey Jones, the man who casually attempted to murder him with a trash compactor. The film teeters on the edge of self-parody all the way through until the end where it plunges balls deep into it during the club scene and the defeat of Shredhead by Keytar. To properly enjoy this movie you have to adjust your expectations. Watching TMNT 2 is akin to drinking maple syrup straight out of the bottle instead of drizzling a little on your pancakes. Its just too god damn much of a good thing. While some of the gags are pretty funny, it rapidly becomes obvious that the writers put all their time into the jokes and left no time for the story. Even some of the more absurd episodes of the cartoon series had more interesting versions of the “Shredder tries to kill the turtles with ridiculous idea” plots than you see here in the second feature film.
Much of the fun of watching TMNT 2 comes from laughing at the absurdity of the cheesiness writing and production. The gritty look and feel of the first film has been “cheered” up to the point that the entire production has a vaguely local theater quality of production and staging. Much of it plays out like a weird fever dream you would have if you fell asleep watching TMNT 1. There are overweight Footsoldiers, sausage links being used as Nunchakus and even a choreographed Ninja Dance MC’d by Vanilla Ice. One of the only things propping up the credibility of this second feature is the still stellar work of Jim Henson’s creature shop. The Turtles and Splinter still look incredible and while the work on the two new mutants, Tokka and Rahzar is admirable, they’ve pushed their size to comedic proportions. The giant face of Tokka makes him look way too much like Sweetums to ever be considered even remotely menacing and the suits for both look so cumbersome that you cant help but laugh when they move. I know it was probably the studio not wanting to pony up the dough for licensing other characters but its a damn shame we had to get stuck with Diet Bebop and Rocksteady as the villains with such a rich catalogue of baddies from the comic and cartoon series. How cool would it have been to see Baxter Stockman, Krang or even Rat King on screen?!
I have come to cherish the many small goofy moments of this movie that one only catches with multiple viewings like the extremely long pause between “Coming” and “to a conclusion” during Splinter’s line when asked about what he’s been doing on the roof or like how Donatello is able to type with ease on the keyboard in the TGRI lab eventhough each of his fingers are easily five or six keys wide. With enough viewings you may find yourself, like me, asking bizarre questions like “which Footsoldier had the responsibility of tying on that little loin cloth that covers up Razhar’s mutant privates?”. These bits are the movies saving grace and at moments would be right at home in the later seasons of the much beloved cartoon series that I so religiously watched as a kid.
Does this movie feel like a souless cashgrab? Yes. Is it still fun to watch? Yes. I suggest the same mindset for viewing TMNT 2 as I would all junk food movies. Don’t take it seriously, have a beer and if you were bold enough to make this your date movie and they didn’t run out screaming, take advantage of the numerous slow spots in the flick to
make out with get to know your date. Though it may be tough to sustain the make out mood an intellectually stimulating conversation while lines like “Combat Coldcuts!” and “Ninja Pizza” are the soundtrack to your date night. It falls short in every category but as long as you don’t expect much by way of story or emotion and do expect much by way of April’s great legs, funny juvenile humor and delightfully campy moments, you’ll enjoy the TMNT 2 experience.