When I was in junior high school, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fever was just beginning. I was a fan of the original independent, black and white comic book by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, and collected the first four trade editions. The crude drawing, violence, and obvious X-Men parody spoke to my restless, half-assed pubescence. Around 1988, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles exploded into the mainstream with a new cartoon series and toy line aimed at much smaller children. Like any good teenager, I summarily rejected the whole franchise and moved on to stealing beer from my father and writing on walls with spray paint.
So I never saw the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, and also missed its sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze. You can’t really blame me, I was sixteen when it came out. If I’d gone to see it, I probably would have spent the whole time in the back of the theater clumsily trying to finger some girl through her stretch pants. The movie featured Vanilla Ice, at the time my mortal enemy in a valorous, single-minded crusade to save hip-hop. And on top of that, it was the mutant turtles with the differently-colored eye masks, not the cool ones with all red eye masks from the original comics (which were in black and white, but the covers were colored.) It never occurred to me to watch this obvious kid’s movie when more dramatic fare like Juice and Jurassic Park was in the theaters.
It was on cable the other day, so I figured I’d give Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze a shot. You know what? It wasn’t half bad. To be sure, it was pandering claptrap, largely designed to sell more Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys and bedsheets. But if we accept that as a given, then it can be seen as a pretty good bit of pandering claptrap, well-paced and reasonably interesting with some awesome acrobatics that people do entirely ensconced in some very uncomfortable-looking foam rubber costumes.
The plot is not really consequential: an old villain thought dead returns to fuck the turtles up, and they rebuke him while also uncovering their own mutant origins. Hint: it has something to do with the ooze. More impressive are the stunts, some really good high-flying choreography done by people in bulky rubber suits. With shells on the back, to boot! Really, it must be seen to be believed. I vaguely recall the movie reviews making a big deal of the stunts when this film came out, and with good reason. Even the animatronic turtle faces didn’t look too weird. I mean, once you’ve accepted that we should befriend mutated animals, we can forgive the fact that they look a little like Teddy Ruxpin when they talk.
The one weird plot point in the movie, and it isn’t as much a detraction as it is confusing, is the introduction of the kid pictured above. I don’t remember his name, but he was a pizza delivery kid who also knew kung-fu that got needlessly mixed up in the turtles’ shit. I guess he was there so kids would have someone to identify with, but his existence in the film was superfluous and mildly annoying. Even with this weird addition to the cast, the movie was quite enjoyable. I wouldn’t go out of my way or pay anything extra to see it, but if you’re even slightly curious, fear not: you won’t be completely bored.
And you know, it’s been a long time, I no longer give a shit about protecting whatever values I wanted to impose on hip-hop or being a purist about anything. Age gives me that luxury. Here’s Vanilla Ice’s song from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze. Honestly, it’s kind of dope.