After the massive success of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, everyone I knew went crazy waiting for the sequel. What got me most excited was all the rumors that we’d be seeing Bebop and Rocksteady—Shredder’s mutant minions—on the screen. If they could bring the Turtles to life so well, imagine what they could do with the big bad boar and the rampaging rhino!
Secret of the Ooze starts with Keno, a martial artist/pizza delivery man, being saved by the Turtles in some weird subterranean shopping mall. Gone were the last movie’s intense fighting, replaced by some major slapstick where the Turtles fight with wiffle bats and cold cuts. I won’t deny laughing my ass off during the fight, but I didn’t know why they weren’t employing the weapons we knew them for. Much later, I found out it was a studio mandate they couldn’t use their trademark weapons for most of the movie because they deemed the previous movie too violent for some tastes.
Keno eventually discovers the Turtles’ hideout in April’s apartment after they destroyed their sewer den in the first movie. Keno is played by Ernie Reyes Jr. who wore the Donatello suit in the first movie, upgraded to a prominent role, replacing Casey Jones in the process. Speaking of replacement, April O’Neil is played by Paige Turco, who some would say looked closer to the cartoon material. I know I was happier with her in the role.
Tatsu, Shredder’s second-in-command and near mute, is now running what remains of the Foot Clan in the local dump. Convenient since Shredder survived being crushed in a garbage truck and climbs out of the heaps to take back control. Too bad Casey Jones is gone and Shredder can’t take revenge on him. It would have been a cool scene, even if it went against the movie’s cleaner image. Instead, he puts out word—the Foot Clan is recruiting again and wants anyone with martial arts experience so he can defeat the Turtles.
The plot intensifies when a disguised foot soldier finds a huge dandelion caused by toxic waste from TGRI. Shredder sees the potential and has the company’s scientist kidnapped so he can create his own mutants. This is the time all of us have been waiting for–Bebop and Rocksteady! Bebop and Rocksteady! And what do we get? A slobbering wolf and another turtle… Tokka and Rahzar. I will never in my entire life understand why they went this route. Were they trying to steer away from the cartoon? I read somewhere that the creators of the Turtles, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, didn’t want any of the characters from the cartoon to appear. Considering the overall feel of Secret of the Ooze was more cartoonish, why not go with already established characters? And when it’s revealed that these two mutants are babies and consider Shredder their mother, how much more cartoony could you get?!
Continued from the original film, Raphael and Leonardo still don’t see eye to eye, even if their conflict isn’t a central role. Raph wants to use Keno to infiltrate the Foot. Leo doesn’t want to risk it, but Keno is all for it. They argue, but there’s no fighting between them. Instead, Donatello gets elevated to main character. With the discovery of the nuclear waste, the titular Ooze, Donnie starts to question his origin. Was he a mistake, an accident? It’s really nice to see another Turtle get the focus, especially Donnie, since he had nothing to do previously.
After saving the TGRI scientist from Shredder, Donatello’s able to apply some more of his mental ability, helping to create an anti-mutagen that could revert Tokka and Rahzar to animals. Secret of the Ooze famously ends with a showdown between the Turtles and the Foot’s mutants which spills into a Vanilla Ice concert. I don’t have to tell you how freaking weird it is that the rapper already had a song prepared for their arrival and the Turtles already had a dance rehearsed for it. There’s no point even talking about it—just watch it again.
Defeated again, Shredder reveals he has one final vial of the ooze, which he gulps down. Somehow he just mutates into a bigger version of himself, including his costume growing more spikes. Shredder chases the Turtles down a pier before bringing it down on himself. Regular Shredder survives being crushed in a garbage truck, but Super Shredder dies when a few boards fall on him? It’s anti-climactic, but at least he looked cool.
Secret of the Ooze had a lot to live up to—the first movie came out the previous year and us kids expected another action-and-rage-filled martial arts film with two new massive mutant punks. Instead, we got slapstick humor and two ugly baby monsters… And it was still an awesome movie!
The Turtles looked great again, with lighter costumes that allowed for better movement, and Tokka and Rahzar looked terrifying. Tokka, the snapping turtle, was my favorite, a huge spiky version of the Turtles that looked like the cartoon character Slash. Overall, I loved Secret of the Ooze as much as the first one, even with the shift in tone and the silly dance number at the end. I watched the movie 3 times in the theater and as I left each time I was thinking of what could show up in the next one. Maybe we’d get lucky and Krang would replace Shredder as the main villain!
If you want to see more Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle goodness, check out my blog, where I’m reviewing each cartoon series, from the original through Rise. If you want even more mutant mayhem, why not check out Old School Evil, my books inspired heavily by the original Turtles cartoon.