Review – More pizza, anyone? (“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Out of the Shadows”)

Did you see 2014’s CGI-fest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Michael “bigger is better!” Bay? I did. It sucked. So when they announced a sequel, I shuddered a little. That meant I was going to have to see another dreadful offering by Michael “blow something up!” Bay.  Boy, was I surprised!
 
 

When last we saw our heroes-on-a-half-shell, the evil Shredder (Brian Tee) had been temporarily vanquished and the Turtles went back into hiding. Ace reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) went back to work, but her trusted cameraman Vern (Will Arnett) got hailed as a hero for stopping Shredder and was nicknamed “the Falcon”. Meanwhile, evil forces have been brewing with super-goofy nerd genius Dr. Baxter Stockman (is that Tyler Perry? OMG, that’s really him!) who’s in cahoots with springing Shredder out of jail and getting him three parts of a space teleporter that will bring an evil half-robot/half-glob called Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett) here.

Trying to stop Shredder’s rescue are the Turtles! Orange-masked surfer dude “Micky” Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), red-masked impulsive Raphael (Alan Ritchson) who jumps into battle too quickly, bespectacled purple-masked “Donny” Donatello (Jeremy Howard), who is a super-techie genius, and team leader blue-masked Leonardo (Pete Ploszek). Their “father” is a 5-ft scruffy rat named Splinter (Tony Shaloub), and they all live in the NYC, with April as their liaison in case of trouble.

Trouble like when she discovers Shredder using Krang’s sinister space ‘purple ooze’ that turns two dorky street thugs named BeBop and Rocksteady (Gary Anthony Williams and Stephen Farrelly) into a giant mutant rhino and warthog. April steals the ooze and gets help from ex-cop and kick-ass hockey player, Casey Jones (Stephen Amell, moonlighting from his Arrow TV show). Even police chief Rebecca Vincent (OMG, is that Academy and Tony winner Laura Linney? Yup, that really is!) is finding reports of large shelled mutant things wandering the city ridiculous. . .until she sees them!

Teaming up with the TMNT, Jones and April discover that Shredder and Stockman plan to bring the evil galactic Krang here (yes, just like in The Avengers movie) so he can assemble a ginormous war machine and take over the planet. The teens try to stop BeBop and Rocksteady from getting the third transporter piece, but ultimately things go south and Krang gets here and starts to put together his WMD. Will the TMNT stop him in time? Will Casey Jones whip out a bow and arrow and say, “You failed this city!!”? Will April O’Neil stop looking so damn gorgeous?

It’s no secret that everyone hated the 2014 re-issue of Michael Bay’s TMNT, especially the TMNT’s fan base. They cried foul at the everything from the lack of originality, the terrible screenplay, and the exclusion of certain characters (like Casey Jones). This movie actually makes an attempt to put things right with the addition of not only Casey Jones, but beloved TMNT icon’s Rocksteady, BeBop, and Krang. Very nice. Screenwriters Joseph Applebaum and Andre Nemec not only pay some homage to the 1991 TMNT by bringing back the “ooze” again, but have a decent story arc that doesn’t spin out of control like their messy 2014 screenplay did. Both dialoge and scenes are surprisingly refreshing.

With director Dave Green at the helm, the movie zips along quickly with some of the most idiotic and fun physic-defying fight and action scenes ever done. But hey, that’s what you’d expect in a TMNT movie anyway, right? Pure popcorn nonsense and plot holes the size of NYC manhole covers. Surrounding all this, however, there is an honest brotherly schism going on (“We should turn ourselves human! Let’s be outside in the human world”) that is played very real and makes this TMNT film a cut above the last one. This one has a heart and Green decided to go with that instead of a brainless non-stop actioner with no redeeming qualities or voice. Cowabunga, dude!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991
*

*
Cashing in on their 1990 massive hit, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, New Line Cinema decided to put a sequel in a hurry, but buckled under to parents groups who raised holy hell over the cartoon-y violence from the first movie. Seriously? A bunch of rubber-suited animatronic turtles eating pizza and waving samurai sword’s got them bend out of shape? Welcome to the 90’s!!

So, Todd W. Langen (who wrote the 1990 screenplay) dumbed-down the sequel–if that was possible–and wrote a far sillier and less violent screenplay featuring the TMNT fighting by hand, with hardly any weapons! Yeah… kid friendly! Plus New Line’s inability to get the rights to add villains BeBop and Rocksteady or even get Casey Jones, and this movie just died a horrible death. How bad? White rapper Vanilla Ice sings in it!

Anyway, the turtles Leonardo (Brian Tochi voiced), Donatello (Adam Carl), Michelangelo (Robbie Rist), and Raphael (Laurie Faso), along with their master Splinter (Kevin Clash), are living with April O’Neil (Page Turco) while they look for a new place to live, following the events of the last movie. Splinter wants to remain in the shadows, while Raphael thinks they should live out in the open. Meanwhile, the evil Shredder (David McCaren) has kidnapped Professor Jordan Perry (David Warner) who holds the secret of the “ooze”, the green gooey stuff that changed the ordinary turtles into the giant things they are now.

Using the ooze, Shredder makes two new giant mutant henchman: (no, not BeBop and Rocksteady) a wolf and a snapping turtle called Tokka and Rahza (Frank Welker voices both). A young pizza delivery boy (with mad ninja skills, no less) named Keno (Ernie Reyes, Jr.) is recruited by the Turtles to infiltrate Shredder’s nasty Foot Clan to get info, but he gets caught. The professor escapes in time to create an antidote to the ooze, but all hell breaks loose at a dance club with Vanilla Ice dancing and rapping while the Turtles fight the bad guys. I kid you not. This happens in the movie. I’m not making this up.

Finally, Tokka and Rahza are defeated, but not before Shredder eats the last of the ooze and becomes a giant “Super Shredder”, wanting to destroy the TMNT at any cost. But he does so inside a newly constructed building and forgets about the general rules of safety. BOOM! CRASH! Remember that, kids! Never grow to gigantic proportions inside a newly built high-rise!

Just an embarrassment, this sequel was directed by Michael Pressman, who did mostly TV shows like Boston Legal, Weeds, and Law & Order. Geared at children and weird adults, this terrible movie served up goofy chop-socky with the TMNT attacking the dreaded Foot Clan with not samurai swords and nun-chucks, but yo-yo’s, sausages, belts, beach balls, etc. What a huge disappointment! Even the language was toned down to meet to the kiddies expectations.

And don’t expect to SEE too much either as the entire film was shot in the dark! Dark apartments, dank sewers, dimly lit Shredder headquarters, all night shots outdoors (apparently there is NO daylight!), low-light concert halls and laboratories, yadda yadda yadda. What, no budget for light bulbs?

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