The turtles find out that the ooze that turned them into mutants has been used again, this time by an old enemy.
Michael Pressman, 1991
I had such a hard time paying attention to this movie that I’m going to find it hard to write a plot summary, but here goes. Having defeated Shredder at the end of the previous movie, the turtles are now holed up at the apartment of their friend April O’Neil (Paige Turco), fighting less powerful villains with absolute ease. April’s getting a little overwhelmed having four teenagers living in her (very nice) one-person apartment, so the boys go out to look for a new place. Meanwhile, April interviews a scientist, Professor Perry (David Warner) who’s trying to do something good for the environment by cleaning up the chemical waste from previous experiments. He unearths the ooze that transformed Splinter and the turtles. But pretty soon the ooze falls into the wrong hands, and new mutants appear to threaten the turtles. Kinda. Except that they pose no threat whatsoever.
So the story goes that after the success of the first live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the one from the late 80s with dudes in turtle suits flipping around kicking ninja butt), the studio made the decision to cut way down on the violence for its sequel. I haven’t seen the first film since I was a kid, but having watched this one, I can only imagine that they also decided to cut down on plot, likeability, and humour as well. Possibly also a script. This film feels like a long improv game wherein actors have been told to act like the turtles, and are actively mocking the phenomenon. Michelangelo is unhinged rather than funny, spouting off lines and impressions that are totally incoherent. Leonardo and Donatello are…flippy wallpaper, basically. Raphael has a moment of totally nonsensical angst. Paige Turco tries as April, but the script forces her to mother the turtles more than interacting normally with them. Only Splinter seems remotely serious about anything, but he’s also a racist caricature, and he spouts a lot of generic advice that makes little sense. Worst of all is the horribly written Keno, a comic relief sidekick with bad hair who is both pointless and offensive at every turn, despite the efforts of actor Ernie Reyes Jr. to make him funny.
The action scenes are devoid of action due to the lack of violence – the turtles never use their weapons, and the bad guys mostly have to sort of defeat themselves. The mutants they fight are coded as babies, which is also vaguely disturbing. The film looks terrible, a poorly lit backlot-shot mess of a movie. It does move fast and keep the tone light, which I imagine holds some appeal for kids. There’s also a bizarre scene that, to my mind, is the only thing that makes this movie worth watching in any way: the turtles end up fighting at a Vanilla Ice gig. After some initial hesitation, the iceman throws on a sick beat, lets the turtles dance for what seems like an hour, and then busts out a rhyme about ninja turtles that is pretty much just “go ninja, go ninja, go” for a full four minutes. Then the unlikeliest of weapons is finally used: one of the turtles strikes a chord on the electric guitar and sends a bad guy flying. It’s so stupid and ridiculous, but at least it’s entertaining, unlike the rest of this borefest. Oh yeah, and you never actually FIND OUT THE SECRET OF THE OOZE.