Issue 25: Top 10 - A Turtle Tribute (Part 2)

ISSUE 25: TOP 10 - A TURTLE TRIBUTE (PART 2)

The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was an instant classic and a box office success story. I've already given my Top 10 reasons why the movie is unbeatable. So when the time came to cook up a sequel, what did the Turtles come up with?


Something very, very different.

The Ninja Turtles sequel mixed up the formula. The grit is gone, the villains are comical, and the humor is a lot more basic. The movie goes in a completely different and zany direction from its predecessor. How did this happen?


Send in the Moms. A few mothers across the country left theaters appalled with how they saw the Turtles on the silver screen. What happened to that innocent cartoon where they barely fought and gorged on pizza? Why was Shredder so scary? And what was up with that one Turtle cursing all time? The questions went on and on...


The message of the Moms was heard. The studio answered with what was billed as, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Secret of the Ooze. When the movie hit theaters, diehard fans felt slightly cheapened by the push towards the family-friend vibe. But nevertheless, the flick still made a decent buck and was a modest success. 


Yes, the film was a lot more family-friendly (heck, Michelangelo uses cold-cuts instead of weapons in the opening scene). But since the original cartoon was such a goofy, slapsticky romp, what's the problem here? Fans of the original comics got their movie with the first flick, so Secret of the Ooze is the perfect picture for kids who loved the cartoon. More mutants, gallons of ooze, and a musical number - what kid could resist?


Forget that it's not the original movie. Let your fandom-guard down. Let's enjoy Secret of the Ooze for all its golden goofiness. Counting down from 10…
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10. THE GREAT PIZZA MONTAGE


The first movie kicked off with a gutsy, crime-ridden montage of New York City.


This time around, the first few shots set the scene in a whole new light. Pizza…pizza galore.


Every person, of every walk of life, is eating a slice of pie on a beautiful New York evening. If you had never visited the Big Apple, you'd assume the only food available in 1991 was pizza.


The montage does its job. This is a Turtles movie after all - and a sequel no less. Forget an origin tale or a complicated backstory - the audience is amped up for some fun. A quick moment with a few people stuffing themselves with pizza and we're ready to roll. 


Opening the film this way incoincidentally created the perfect time capsule of America in the 90's. The pizza is obvious - the Turtles transformed the dish from a meal into a pop culture trend. But, there's another element here that compliments the 1991 vibe. The wardrobe. It's horrendous, but boasts its 90's glory throughout The Great Pizza Montage. Shoulder pads, baggy blazers, and an overall abysmal sense in fashion plague the screen. And no cell phones!


Who needs Doc Brown and the Delorean when you've got The Great Pizza Montage?
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9. LIFE ABOVE GROUND


After their underground lair down in the sewer was destroyed by the Foot Clan, the Turtles shacked up with April. No more living beneath the city. The boys, and Splinter, found themselves living in a high-rise apartment building. Not a shabby place either. Did the Turtles ever use the buzzer to get in? Disguised maybe?


Nope, looks like the guys just use the ol' fire escape through the window trick.


The setting of the apartment provides lots of complications for the gang, but many laughs for us. Watching the Turtles interact within a modern, aboveground-lifestyle is a riot. Their attempt at cleaning the place takes the cake. Donatello's bo staff becomes a mop and Michelangelo dons a flowery apron.


During the movie, the audience gets a glimpse at the personal belongings each Turtle has brought into April's apartment. There's the innocent gags (Michelangelo leaves a rubber snake in the refrigerator), but then there is a few weird things in between…

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8. THE NEW SEWER DEN


No more ragtag livings for the Turtles. The days of dim lighting in their crowded-quarters come to an end in Secret of the Ooze. The gang upgrades for their sequel - discovering an abandoned subway station.

Although not extremely exciting on paper, the idea lends itself perfectly to create a solid dose of movie magic. The production value of the Turtles new sewer den is incredible. Spacious and equipped with several subway cars, this new lair shines on camera.


The Turtles also keep some fine glassware in their new pad. But, they only bring it out for the guests.

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7. SPLINTER IN ACTION


The world's favorite rat didn't do a whole lot in the original Ninja Turtles film. He got captured in the beginning and was kept captive for the majority of the movie. He's credited with defeating Shredder, but really that fool ran himself off a rooftop and into a garbage truck.

The cartoon also had Splinter relatively tame. His martial arts were kept to a minimum and he spent much of his time meditating.


But, in Secret of the Ooze, Master Splinter actually does SOMETHING. Around the middle of the film, the Turtles have been captured. While trapped within a massive net, Shredder inches them closer and closer to a sea of sharp objects. The boys are moments away from becoming "Turtle kabobs."


Luckily, the Turtles carry a little insurance - Splinter. Equipped with a bow and arrow, the rat saves the day with a shot of perfect accuracy - slashing the net open. It's not much, but hey, at least it's something. This saves-the-day moment gives audiences a glimpse at Splinter's potential. The rodent is capable of much more than simply hanging around the sewer making "funnies". 
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6. THE TOYS


The Ninja Turtles are one of the most successful, best-selling action figure franchises of all time. In just a short span from 1988-1991, Playmates released almost 100 toys for kids to collect. But, when the first Ninja Turtles flick hit theaters, opportunity slipped right through their green fingers. Yes, there were movie-themed shirts, movie-themed posters, and even movie-themed school supplies. But, where were the action figures?!

Nowhere in sight. Finally, Secret of the Ooze opened in theaters, and with it, a slew of movie-themed action figures. About time! From the heroes to the villains, each toy was awesome. The packaging was equally as excellent - featuring plenty of movie-inspired artwork.


I's pretty safe to say that these toys have a special place in my heart. Two figures from this line made my Top 10 Mutants story.


Super Shredder ranked pretty high while Movie Star Raph took home the first place prize. Even though those two dudes, I believe, are a cut above the rest, every figure from this action figure release is pure gold.


But, this party is strictly mutants only. The masked Foot Soldier is the only human that made the release. April O'Neil, Keno, Tatsu, and Shredder (Super Shredder is a mutant) are sadly all missing from this collection. But hey, no need to get upset. We still got Super Shredder…in purple and in demand.
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5. MUTANT MANIA: TOKKA & RAHZAR


Shredder brings a little more brawn to his camp in Secret of the Ooze. Tatsu and the rest of the Foot Clan come back for an encore performance, but it's the two mutants who steal the thunder. Tokka (snapping turtle) & Razhar (wolf, sometimes spelled Razar) take the stage in an attempt to destroy the Turtles.
They're scary.


They've got super strength. 


And they're idiots.

Lots and lots of TMNT fans still gripe about Tokka & Razhar replacing Bebop & Rocksteady in Secret of the Ooze. Why was the dopey duo from the cartoon left out of the film? It's a fair argument, but Tokka & Razhar still get the job done.


This team of mutated villains bring their own brand of boneheadedness. Rather than being bumbling buffoons like Bebop & Rocksteady, Tokka & Razhar are basically overgrown (mutated!) kids. Their speech mimics that of an infant, they whine relentlessly, and they even mistake Shredder for their mother. Bebop & Rocksteady they are not, but as added comic relief, they are successful.


Seeing an additional batch of mutants besides the four Turtles (and Splinter) on the silver screen was a big treat back in 1991. Although they were juvenile, Tokka & Razhar were still a challenging adversary. With such super strength, they towered over the Turtles and tossed them around like pizza dough.


Not fun for the green machines, but fun for the audience! Seeing seven mutants sharing a scene is a dream come true for any kid.


The interactions between these villains and the Turtles is a pure delight. You're basically watching teenagers and infants attempt a conversation, resolve nothing, and then face off in battle as a result. Now, that's entertainment!


Alas, Tokka & Razhar (SPOILER ALERT!) don't make it to the third movie. After a series of kooky events, the wolf and snapping turtle eventually get their mutation process reversed - returning them to their original form. This might be the most adorable victory the Turtles have ever had.

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4. KENO


The Turtles are usually most interesting, and most humorous, when paired with a human. In the first flick, April O'Neil and Casey Jones brought out the best in the Turtles. When those two actors were on screen, the movie really shined. They really delivered some of the most memorable performances for any kid growing up in the 90's. So when these two iconic actors are left out of the mix, what's the result?



Is he late night security? Actually, he's pizza delivery. Enter Keno - the young, semi-reckless delivery dude who happens to study martial arts. The change from Casey Jones to Keno seems like a tough one for audiences to swallow. Removing the quintessential spirit from the first film puts the second in an uphill battle from the start. Keno had some big shoes to fill…


But, Ernie Reyes Jr. rises to the occasion with his portrayal of Keno. Not only is he the first character the audience is introduced to in the film, but he's immediately likable.


His cinematic charm shines through - and he's funny! One of his first lines went over my head in 1991, but had me in stitches a few years later. Armed with a pizza for delivery, Keno climbs on his motor scooter near a gaggle of women. Suave and sociable, Keno dials up the charm.


"Hey, which one of you ladies wants to ride with me tonight?" - Keno

"Dream on, dweeb." - one of the ladies

"Yeah, okay. But when I do, I'll dream of something a little thinner!" - Keno


Zing! With a little laugh, Keno scoots away on his cycle. Instantly, the audience knows the wit and snap of Casey Jones is not dead. And so begins, the greatness of Keno.


Along with his jokes, we get some serious martial arts. His fists and feet move like lightning - bringing a whole new energy to the film. If the martial arts needed to be bigger and better because this film is a sequel, well then casting Ernie Reyes Jr. was the perfect move. The dude nails it.


He's an open-minded guy too. When he's not punching and kicking his way across screen, he's taking up meditation with Splinter. Truly, a jack of all trades.

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3. PRE-FIGHT DOUGHNUT


In this scene, cartoons come to life. Before the Turtles battle their mutated foes, Tokka & Razhar, the boys come up big with some pretty nutty humor. The jist of the scene - get the mutated baddies to eat these cubes that will reverse their mutations. By doing this, the big, bad wolf and snapping turtle are reduced to their normal, non-threatening state. Although Tokka & Razhar are pretty dumb, the Turtles still attempt deception by putting the cubes inside a few doughnuts. The goal, get the villainous mutants to eat the cube-filled doughnuts. Hence, the Pre-Fight Doughnut.


Leonardo shouts to the spectating Foot Clan,

"WAIT! WAIT! First, we must observe the ancient ritual of the, uh…uh…traditional Pre-Fight Doughnut!"


Why do I love the Pre-Fight Doughnut sequence? What makes it so incredibly important to me? I truly admire the level of outlandish absurdity packed into this moment. The extremely zaniness is unprecedented (and that's saying a lot in terms of this movie). Who thought of this?! How (and why?!) did this idea ever make it from screenwriter's head to the silver screen? I'd love to see the writer and producer discussing this one… 

"Right before the climax of the film, I think we should do sequence where the Turtles perform a Pre-Fight Doughnut ritual." - screenwriter

"Oh yeah?" - producer

"It's an idea I've been kicking around for years. Seems like this is an appropriate movie to work it in." - screenwriter

"Will kids understand this Pre-Fight Doughnut ritual? Cause I don't." - producer

"No…no one will understand it." - screenwriter


Shredder and the Foot Clan don't even question this strange ritual. In fact, they allow the bizarreness to continue. But naturally, the Turtles' plan fails. The villainous mutants don't eat enough of the cube-filled doughnuts. Making this whole scene even more pointless than it already was.


The Secret of the Ooze DVD isn't jam-packed with bonus content, but there is a morsel of greatness that makes this disc a worthy purchase. Snap open the case and inside you'll find the typical chapter index. Chapter 17 will had me laughing the night away - "Pre-Fight Doughnut." The DVD distributors apparently found this scene as magical as I did.
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2. SUPER SHREDDER


Shredder is the ultimate nemesis for the Turtles. His desire to crush the brothers into oblivion is daunting. Even though he wore pink in the first movie and purple in the second, he's still an intimidating villain. So how do you take such a legacy, The Shredder, and make him even more chilling?

Super-size the man.


I know, I know…the whole idea of a Super Shredder is completely absurd. He drinks the ooze at the film's climax - causing him to go all, hmm...super on the Turtles. I'd bet the farm this character was created purely for merchandising. Everyone wanted a Super Shredder action figure.


Silly? Maybe. But, not when you're a kid in 1991. Seeing Super Shredder on the big screen was a pinnacle moment for any Turtles fan. He's bigger, badder, and scarier. I tip my hat to the filmmakers for successfully molding Shredder into a more frightening (and visually cooler) villain. He really is super.

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1. NINJA RAP


You knew this would be in the Top 10, didn't you? How could it not be?


When Vanilla Ice strolled out on stage in Secret of the Ooze, audiences were either bopping their heads to the beat or simply laughing. Whatever party you fell in, the result still had everyone smiling. This is the definitive moment where this film captures its time period. The dude was a mega-trend,  a fashion icon,  and a talented dancer. In 1991, Vanilla Ice was king.


It would be really easy to hate on Vanilla Ice for being in Secret of the Ooze. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who bash on him and the movie for co-existing. But, not me. His presence in the film is a silly one, but nevertheless, a fun one. In the 1990's, the universe had two of the most unlikely phenomenons taking place:


1) a band of wise-cracking, superheroes known as The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and...



2) ...a white rapper with screaming swift dance moves heralded as Vanilla Ice


It would only be a matter of time until the stars aligned and these two marvels found themselves together.


In 1991, Ninja Rap was born. 

"Gonna rock and roll this place.
With the power of the Ninja Turtle bass."


The Vanilla Ice and Ninja Turtles mash-up are a live-action cartoon. But, their combined goofiness is completely natural and believable on the silver screen too. Vanilla Ice rocks the mic like a vandal when he's on stage. The guy is pure energy. Why wouldn't the Turtles find him alluring?


These dudes are just like Vanilla Ice - looking to rock the house and have a little fun. Not to mention, the Turtles are teenagers after all. And Vanilla Ice was a super-teen sensation. Splinter keeps the Turtles serious back at home, but when they're on their own, these teenage brothers are cooking MC's like a pound of bacon.


Have you ever scene a Turtle get down?
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No, it's not the original film. But, it's one heck of a sequel. Entertaining from start (The Great Pizza Montage!) to end (Ninja Rap!). And if you're still complaining that the film is too family-friendly…dude, it's been 21 years! Let it go! Go grab a slice of pizza, kick your feet up, and enjoy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Secret of the Ooze for all its movie magic.


Top 10 Recap:

10. THE GREAT PIZZA MONTAGE
9. LIFE ABOVE GROUND
8. THE NEW SEWER DEN
7. SPLINTER IN ACTION
6. THE TOYS
5. MUTANT MANIA: TOKKA & RAHZAR
4. KENO
3. PRE-FIGHT DOUGHNUT
2. SUPER SHREDDER
1. NINJA RAP

2 comments:

  1. Good list, I agree with most of it! I have to say the original movie appeased the "darker" elements of the turtles but the 2nd movie was just pure fun and at the time perfect for kids.

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    Replies
    1. Totally! It was so goofy, but was right in line with the cartoon.

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