Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II DVD Review

You'll find a lot of people who consider the original "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" to be a classic. I'm one of them. However, I'm in the minority of people who considers the sequel to be a classic as well, just on an entirely different level. Though it doesn't follow the comic book, lightening the mood and upping the humor level gives the film the tone of the cartoon that more people are familiar with.

The Shredder, surviving the fall into the garbage truck at the end of the first film, kidnaps Professor Jordan Perry, head of TGRI, the company responsible for mutating the turtles. Creating two monstrosities of his own named Tokka and Rahzar with the scientists help, Shredder takes the advantage and even has the final canister of ooze that could mutate the heroes back into normal amphibians. With the deck stacked against them, the Turtles head into action with their new partner Keno (Ernie Reyes Jr.) to stop the Foot Clan from a complete take over of New York.

Right from the start, this sequel establishes a new tone. Light, which was notably absent from the first edition of this series, is used here and the fighting style relies more on comedy than real martial arts. Fans of the first film were surely stunned by the mood change, but kids who were disturbed by the rather tragic beating of Raphael in the first film have no worries here. Of course, this film is probably best known for the rather blatant appearance by Vanilla Ice, suddenly coming up with lyrics on the spot about the Turtles who have busted into his concert even though he knows nothing about them.

Directed by Michael Pressman (Boston Public amongst other TV shows), there are a few obvious, though minor, problems in the continuity. Blatantly obvious is Paige Turco replacing Judith Hoag as April O' Neal. She's gentler and softer, likely a change for the better. Most of the Turtles crew has new voice actors (Cory Feldman fails to return as Donatello) and the canister of ooze doesn't match the one shown during a flashback sequence, but that's a nit-pick.

Animatronics, supplied again (and also for the final time) by the Jim Henson Creature Shop, are a major improvement. Lip-synching is flawless and the suits never bend in odd places like they did a few times in "TMNT." The designs for the new mutants are fabulous, looking perfectly evil and downright stupid at the same time. The final battle includes Super Shredder, played by pro-wrestler Kevin Nash (noted as Kevin "Clash" in the credits). Oddly, the shelled heroes never even lay a hand on this superb suit making for a very anti-climatic ending, but it's a minor issue.

This is the sort of movie anyone can enjoy, much like the recent Pixar CG-animated cartoons. The jokes are almost always funny (Tokka bopping Rahzar in the head with a pipe is priceless) regardless of your age, the actors in the suits do a magnificent job considering the added weight, and fans of the cartoon should be thoroughly satisfied. If you only enjoyed the comic book, forget either of the sequels. You've had your movie (and it was a good one). Let the mainstream have theirs. (**** out of *****)

Unlike the first disc, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II" contains widescreen and pan & scan prints on the same side of the DVD. The menu selection shows just how much is lost with pan & scan, so credit is due to New Line for making a small stand. Though grain is still a problem, this first sequel looks much better than it's predecessor. Flesh tones on the human characters seem to be tinted a bit much towards red, but this is only a small problem. Black levels are outstanding and the soft nature of the print is retained to keep the tone of the film preserved. This is far from perfect (unlike the treatment the third film would receive), but at least the characters can be made out in dark situations. (***)

Light on bass but strong just about everywhere else, "TMNT II" sounds remarkable in 5.1 surround. As embarrassing and cringe-worthy as "Ninja Rap" may be, it sounds outstanding on DVD. The audience, who must be drunk, cheer on the early 90's icon from every speaker. Fight scenes feature yells and grunts from every angle while things happen off screen. This isn't a major landmark, but it never really has an opportunity to be. What is does, it does in superb style. (****)

Besides the really nice menus, "TMNT II" is barren in the features department. Ok, it does have a few trailers, but those hardly count anymore. Much like the first film, a making-of is available on VHS but is not included here. (*)

Say what you want about it, but "TMNT II" is flat out fun. It never stops being entertaining, and every chance it has to be funny it takes it. Maybe not every joke will hit you like they did back in 1991, but you'll still have a smirk on your face by the time the credits begin to roll.

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