As the sequel to 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze is an entertaining trifle. It’s directed by Michael Pressman and features a screenplay by Todd W. Langen, with characters created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. As with its predecessor, this 1991 picture features animatronic creatures from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.
The organic and quirky design of the titular characters is the most charming aspect of The Secret of the Ooze. The movie is dedicated to Henson, who passed away in May of 1990, and branches out to include a couple of surprises in addition to the anticipated roster of four turtles and a rat.
The action starts as pizza delivery boy Keno (Ernie Reyes, Jr.) comes across a robbery. He fends for himself until more burglars arrive. Luckily, the Ninja Turtles happen upon the scene and save the day. It’s revealed that the four anthropomorphic reptiles have been living with reporter April O’Neil (Judith Hoag) in her apartment.
The Turtles have to find a new place to live, but they soon have more pressing matters as the evil Shredder (François Chau) resurfaces and starts to put the Foot organization back together. He also kidnaps a scientist (David Warner) with designs on using toxic ooze to mutate a wolf and snapping turtle to do his bidding.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II starts in a world that seems aware of the existence of the Ninja Turtles and their pizza obsession, as there are several shots of people chowing down on a slice. The Turtles themselves have evolved, as their more exasperating adolescent qualities are at the fore. They’re trying to reinvent themselves, trying to find new catchphrases.
And Splinter seems very aware of the snowballing youth of his students, as he tells them the outside world beckons their teenaged minds and tries to keep them grounded. He tells them that the outside world could never be the world of the Turtles.
That hasn’t stopped the quartet from taking part. Pizza is still a huge deal and they religiously watch the news when April is on, even if Raphael (Laurie Faso) wants to watch Oprah. Speaking of the red-masked one, he’s back to his Bogart-adoring tricks and gets in a rather good nod to Casablanca. Later, they dance-fight to a Vanilla Ice song.
Speaking of April O’Neil, she doesn’t factor much in the negligible plot of The Secret of the Ooze. She does comport herself as an independent reporter and shirks her boss’s desire to have her cover a bikini story. She chases down the aforementioned Techno Global Research Industries scientist and tries to suss out an ecological angle.
While the ecological angle is largely left as a pure device, questions about origins are pushed to the fore. Donatello wonders about the evolution of the turtles. He can’t help but express disappointment. Somehow, the beginning of the Turtles seems arbitrary. There’s nothing special about it, nothing enchanted.
Behind the substance of The Secret of the Ooze, there’s an underwhelming action movie. The fighting is rickety and the choreography leaves a lot to be desired, although some fights jump with certain energy. There’s less to like about the bland climax, which features a Super Shredder (Kevin Nash) blasting through a bunch of thin wood.
Few people consider the existential questions found in a Ninja Turtles sequel and fewer people check out a movie full of animatronic martial artists with intentions on delving into ecological matters, but The Secret of the Ooze has greater depth than some realize. In terms of fighting and fun, it’s a passable and colourful romp. In terms of everything else, the secrets are surprisingly captivating.