If you have not yet noticed, there is a “III” suffix at the end of my name. When I was born, my parents and grandparents had a small debate over what they were going to call me. My paternal grandfather went by “Al,” and they called my dad “Albie,” though he goes by “Al” now. It was my paternal grandmother that landed upon calling me “Bert” on that cold January morning in 1980 in the suburbs of Chicago. Unfortunately, the year I was born meant that I grew up in an era when many kids like me regularly watched PBS stalwart Sesame Street. I remember vividly my first day of kindergarten, innocently introducing myself to everyone as “Bert,” and being laughed at by the entire class. From that point on I was regularly teased with a phrase that became hateful to me: “Hey Bert, where’s Ernie?” It led to many problems for me in my development, but that is another story. The only reason I bring this up is because the first thing you see in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991) is a memorial to Jim Henson, who was also one of the creators of Sesame Street. Cinema can trigger some interesting memories.
Sigh. The events of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze picks up basically right after its prequel. Hopefully it is not too long, though the precise amount of time does not really matter. The eponymous team, along with their teacher and leader, the mutant rat Splinter (voiced by Kevin Clash), are still staying with famed news reporter April O’Neil (Paige Turco). They fill up her apartment with pizza boxes, comic books, and skateboards, not to mention their increasingly annoying catchphrases they yell after their various victories. They are teenagers, after all. Given the randomness of people of that age, I suppose they do not need a reason for suddenly becoming fixated on their origin. Okay, it is not completely random as it is triggered by a report they see by April on a chemical spill clean-up performed by Techno Global Research Industries (TGRI). It is then that Splinter reveals to the Turtles that it was TGRI that had invented the substance that triggered their mutations. April furthered their interest by relaying her suspicions that something else was going on with the chemical company. Thus, the Turtles decide to break into TGRI labs to try to discover . . . well, the secret of the ooze. It is there that they encounter their former enemies, the Foot Clan, who they believed defeated. Not only were the shadowy group of thieves not gone, but their implacable leader Shredder (François Chau) had apparently survived the trash compactor he had been tossed into in the previous film. Emerging from the city dump, Shredder realized that he needed his own mutants in order to counter the Turtles. Thus not only do his henchmen secure the last container of the ooze, but they also kidnap lead scientist Professor Jordan Perry (David Warner) in order to help create his own monsters. Now alerted to the Foot, the next step for the Turtles is to find them. In order to do so, Raphael (Kenn Scott, voiced by Kenn Troum) enlists the help of local pizza delivery boy Keno (Ernie Reyes Jr.) in order to get into the organization and locate its base of operations. In doing so, Raphael is captured, which leads to a rescue attempt by the other Turtles. In the process, they also manage to free Professor Perry. The scientist then helps the more scientifically minded Turtle Donatello (Adam Carl, voiced by Leif Tilden) to invent a substance to counteract mutation, which they hope to employ against Shredder’s new creations. Once brewed, they waste no time in employing it in battle while Vanilla Ice raps in the background. Shredder shows up, downs the last bit of the ooze, and ends up collapsing a building on himself. The end.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze is ridiculous. Yet when you are eleven as I was when it came out, it is awesome! When you watch it in 2021, not so much. What struck me most about this sequel, though this is not based on any research, is that it seems like a film made by a bunch of adults in order to please children. Take the two mutants Shredder had Professor Perry create to combat the Turtles. In what I will loosely refer to as the “source material,” there are two mutant henchmen known as Bebop and Rock Steady. Yet whoever made this movie looked at those characters and decided, nah, we will make them Rahzar (Mark Ginther) and Tokka (Kurt Bryant). Also, they decided to not have the Turtles use their trademark weapons when fighting. I guess it was considered too much violence to show kids if Leonardo (Mark Caso, voiced by Brian Tochi) wielded his dual swords. Whatever the case, it resulted in a series of strange decisions that led to a nearly plotless movie.
There is not too much more to say about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. The one moment I could relate to as a Catholic is when Splinter tells them that a true ninja does not seek out battle. So, yeah, peace, whatever. The rest of the film would suggest that they believe otherwise, but it is good to be reminded of the virtues of the restraint. If you find yourself with this movie in front of you, try to make it to the end, or at least set an alarm that will wake you up after about an hour and fifteen minutes. That way you can see, and laugh, at the unbelievable club scene where the Turtles fight Shredder and his minions with Vanilla Ice performing through all of it. Ah, the 1990s.