GUEST COLUMN: Horrible Movies I Love (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II)

Photo: New Line Cinema

Photo: New Line Cinema

Kevin M. Griffiths

I love the Ninja Turtles. I love them because they’re dumb, rambunctious, rebellious teenagers who have absolutely no reason to be viewed as heroes or role models. They set a terrible example for just about everything a kid needs to know growing up, and for that, I adore them. I am of the school of thought that it’s good to know what not to do in a situation, and Leo, Don, Mikey, and Raph have always been there for me in that regard. I thought their first movie had moments that transcended moviedom and stuck its toes into filmdom, but that was not the case in 1991 when the Turtles dropped their first unadulterated abomination onto the masses, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.

If you were to introduce an alien to the lore of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with this movie, and ask the alien when it was done which weapon each turtle uses, that alien could not answer the question. Period. The turtles don’t even use their weapons throughout the movie. It’s a case of classic, Hollywood over-correction, as the filmmakers bowed to the dissention heaved upon them by the viewing public at the oft-dark and violent initial chapter by completely neutering the Turtles’ abilities to deal satisfactory violence.

They don’t do much of anything Ninja either, always in plain view of everyone when they engage in combat. (It doesn’t help much that when the Turtles are gathered together, their defining individual character traits completely disappear and they become the same non-chalant, wise-cracking, recklessly violent entity.)

Paige Turco, replacing Judith Hoag as April O’Neil, is given nothing to do and does absolutely nothing with it; a cardboard cutout would be just as effective. The replacement voices for the Turtles also do well at robbing them of a lot of their characters. Compare Corey Feldman’s work as Donatello in the original to Adam Carl’s in the sequel. Not only did Feldman make Donny disgtinguished enough from the others that you were forced to accept them as individuals, but Carl’s voice blends in with the voices of Leo and Mike so much that it’s sometimes hard to tell them apart.

Another unfortunate thing (to be blamed on script, director, performers, or all) appears in the sense of forced camaraderie another the Turtles. For all the times they actually seem like brothers, there are several instances where it feels like they’re trying really, really hard to come across that way.

However, something does go right when the individual Turtles interact with April and the other human characters. The movie’s at least decent, amidst the cornball dialogue and lame-duck performances. Despite Ernie Reyes, Jr. not being screen ready, Keno actually creates chemistry with Raph when they attempt to infiltrate the Foot Clan. It leads to one of the few scenes that do not feel laboured and that actually moves along the plot, which is thin to begin with.

Then there’s the climax. Utterly ridiculous and remarkably predictable, what it lacks in suspense, it makes up for in pure geek-glee. The wrestling fan in me always squeals and sits up in my seat when Super Shedder appears, as Shedder “on ooze” is played by Big Daddy Cool himself, the Diesel, Kevin Nash. Oh yes, and there’s also a moment Mikey throws out a Wrestlemania joke about Tokka and Rahzar. So, bonus.

Of course, this all follows what is conclusively the best and worst part of the movie, which only needs two words to be described: “Ninja Rap.” Vanilla Ice both succeeded at trumping M.C. Hammer’s work in the first movie’s “Turtle Power” and somehow also failed in his own right — but really, what better way to represent why Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze is so bad and also why I love it so much?