Turtles target the Tykes

Few treats here for the big kids

Published: May 17 2016, 01:01:am

Sunday, March 24, 1991.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES II: THE SECRET OF THE OOZE. Written by Todd W. Langen, based on characters created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. Music by John Du Prez. Directed by Michael Pressman. Running time: 86 minutes. Rated Mature with the B.C. Classifier's warning: some violence.
    No surprise here. Before they were movie stars, kids made their television cartoon series a hit.
    Last March [1990], subteens embraced their first big screen adventure, the live-action feature called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
    Spun off from a comic book spoof of comic book superhero conventions, a kitsch culture joke became a mass market phenomenon.
    And it was funny.
    More than that, it was high-spirited and, despite the controversy over its reliance on high levels of cartoon violence for its humour, it was essentially harmless fun.
    TMNT parodied martial arts movies which, it may be argued, are so self-parodying as to be inconsequential. Like Mighty Mouse before them, TMNT are "funny animals" designed to take the mickey (no pun intended) out of an occasionally self-important form of junk entertainment.
    So let's cut them some slack.
    TMNT are OK.
    For kids.
    But what's in it for me?
    Indeed, what's in it for any filmgoer over 15, the age given for terrapin good guys Michelangelo (Michelan Sisti; voice of Robbie Rist), Donatello (Leif Tilden/Adam Carl), Raphael (Kenn Troum/Laurie Faso) and Leonardo (Mark Caso/Brian Tochi)?
    Not a whole heck of a lot, dudes. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze really is a case of seen one, seen 'em all.
    Making trouble for our heroes is Shredder (François Chau/David McCharen) who, in the manner of all shlock series villains, is unkillable. Despite his apparent demise in the previous picture, the metal-masked bad guy is back and in the mood for revenge.
    There's been some improvement in the turtle body suits, making it easier for the performers contained therein to perform. Unfortunately, there's been no improvement in screenwriter Todd Langen's storytelling ability.
     Nor has he developed the knack of creating interesting, individual characters.
    One bright spot in the proceedings is non-masked actor David Warner. As Jordan Perry, the Techno-Global Research Industries scientist cleaning up the toxic waste spill that figured in the TMNT origin story, Warner handles himself with admirable aplomb.
    In addition, there is a mildly inventive pair of new bad things — Tokka (Kurt Bryant/Frank Welker) and Rahzar (Mark Ginther/Frank Welker), a snapping turtle and wolf mutated into infants with attitudes by some leftover ooze.
    I guess they're director Michael (Doctor Detroit) Pressman's homage to the rubber-suit monsters so familiar to fans of 1960s Japanese creature features.
    Making her feature film debut is daytime TV actress Paige Turco, taking over the role of  the turtles' girl pal April O'Neil from Judith Hoag. In keeping with the light tone, she is prettier and perkier, while the new nasties are just overgrown Muppet babies.
    Kids like them.
    Grown-ups are more likely to feel shortchanged as Turtlemania turns to total boredom.

The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1991. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: Massachusetts-born Paige Turco went on to reprise the April O'Neil role in 1993's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III : The Turtles Are Back . . . in Time. Since then, she's found continuous work as a TV performer. A striking presence, she has created a number of "strong women," including continuing characters in such series as American Gothic (investigative reporter Gail Emory; 1995-1996), The Agency (CIA graphic artist Terri Lowell; 2001-2003) and Person of Interest (crisis management fixer Zoe Morgan; 2011-2016). She made her first working visit to Vancouver in 2000 to play public health doctor Jenny Blanchard, the star of the TV movie Runaway Virus. Turco returned for a showy supporting role in the 2009 theatrical thriller The Stepfather. In late 2013, she was back to play Dr. Abigail Griffin, a starring role in the post-apocalyptic CW series The 100. She'll be seen in the third season's final episode Thurday night (May19), and will be back in our neighbourhood when shooting begins for the show's fourth season later this year. Paige Turco turns 51 today (May17).