In the late ’80s, I was totally that kid running around pretending to be their “favorite” Ninja Turtle with the rest of the neighborhood kids on the street and at birthday parties. And when the first theatrical film was released in 1990, I was instantly in line to see it on the big screen (and wish I still had the promotional poster that was handed out at the theater at the time!), as well as for The Secret of the Ooze a year later in 1991.
Years later in 2014 I would take my family to see the reboot, my son by then familiar with them thanks to various updated shows and toylines that had come along since the “good old days.” So it seemed only appropriate to once again take my kid – who at the time of this writing is indeed a teenager himself – to the latest feature film featuring the “Heroes in a Halfshell,” Teenage MutantNinja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.
Despite having Seth Rogen’s (who I have not found humorous in the least bit since his days of Freaks and Geeks) name attached to the project as screenwriter, I went in with as open a mind as possible. The result this time around lands somewhere in between part homage to the source material and it’s original time frame (watch for nods to both Vanilla Ice and Ferris Beuller’s DayOff), and part over-the-top goofyness in an effort to appeal to younger audiences.
The pros; the Turtles themselves are likeable enough (and actually voiced by all teens, most noticeably Brady Noon of Diaryof a Wimpy Kid and MightyDucks fame), albeit their characters are not given much individual identities this time around. John Cena, Ice Cube, and Paul Rudd are among many of the actors that lend their voice talents here as well.
The cons; the numerous liberties taken by the filmmakers are abundant here. Aside from the most obvious drastic changes to characters like Splinter and of course April O’Neil (voiced by Jackie Chan and Ayo Edebiri, respectively), there’s also quite a few updates to the origins of the Turtles that purists may find in poor taste. And speaking of poor taste, some of the jokes come off as just plain crude and/or cringe-worthy (watch for the “Puke Girl” scene – it’s even less funny than it sounds).
All in all, I suppose it wasn’t a total waste of time; as a modern action flick, it does come close in comparison with the latest animated Spider-Man films. But the next time I feel the need for some Ninja Turtles action, I’ll likely turn to one the now-classic entries in the series instead.
Growing up a kid in the ’80s, I completely devoured everything the decade had to offer a kid my age. Transformers, G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, and of course, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, were my world, and the films spawned by the latter of course became a monumental event for just about any kid around at the time.
Created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the ‘heroes in a half-shell’ first came to life when their first comic book was published via Mirage Studios in 1984. But like many kids at the time, they didn’t appear on my radar until the animated TV series appeared a few years later in 1987, after which they became a household name, and a full-on worldwide phenomenon. From then on, every kid in America was clamoring for the action figures and having Ninja Party-themed birthday parties, where each kid wanted to be their personal favorite turtle (which most of the time was Michelangelo).
By 1990 the franchise was at it’s peak, and we were finally treated with a feature length film. It was an event that every young boy just had to take a part of at the time, and we all thought we were in on something ‘cool’ that our parents were just not hip to (in some cases movie goers were even given small promotional posters upon arrival to the theater, something I wish I had held on to til this day). Then just one short year later, we were given a second film when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, was released upon our young minds on March 22, 1991. Again I was right there in the theater watching the sequel with one of my older sisters, not knowing at the time it would ultimately be the beginning of the end of my Ninja Turtles craze.
Directed by Michael Pressman, the second Ninja Turtles film was much lighter in tone in comparison to it’s predecessor. And while many of the actors from the first film returned for the sequel, there were some changes to the cast, most noticeably Paige Turco taking over for Judith Hoag as April O’ Neil, and Adam Carl stepping in for Corey Feldman as the voice of Donatello. The turtles also befriend a new alley in the form of Keno (Ernie Reyes, Jr.) in a role similar to Casey Jones (who is strangely absent without any explanation). Another difference those with a keen eye might spot is the limited use of the turtles’ weapons. This was done purposely by filmmakers in an effort to reduce the violence in the movie.
In this entry, the turtles discover that The Shredder (Francois Chau) survived their final battle at the end of the first film, and still has a few remaining loyalists of the Foot Clan in his corner. They also learn their own origins when their master, Splinter (Kevin Clash) explains their mutation was the result of direct contact with a radioactive substance (i.e. the ‘ooze’) manufactured by a company called TGRI. The Shredder of course learns of this, and creates two mutants of his own, Tokka and Rahzar, in an attempt to combat the turtles (for whatever reason, these characters were used in place of Bebop and Rocksteady from the cartoon). The inevitable conclusion finds the turtles facing off and defeating The Shredder and the new mutants in a club where rapper Vanilla Ice (in his film debut) happens to be performing, and conveniently introduces the song “Ninja Rap.’
The Secret of the Ooze grossed over $78 million at the box office domestically, and was followed by TeenageMutant Ninja Turtles III two years later in 1993, which was panned by critics and signaled a decline in NinjaTurtles popularity. This was further cemented when a live action TV series, Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation (which introduced the first female turtle, Venus de Milo), came and went briefly in 1997-98.
The franchise laid dormant for several years until 2003, when a new animated series produced by Fox appeared. This helped lead to another feature film, the animated TMNT, in 2007. The series lasted until 2010, and was followed by yet another animated show, this time produced by Nickelodeon, from 2012-17, as well as a reboot film in 2014 starring Megan Fox and produced by Michael Bay, which in turn had it’s own sequel, Out of theShadows, in 2016 (audiences finally saw the appearance of Bebop and Rocksteady on the big screen for the first time with the latter).
Today, the franchise is still in the hands of Nickelodeon, with Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles being the latest incarnation as of 2018, and the Ninja Turtles are more popular now more than ever. This was evidenced when just this month, Vanilla Ice threw a Secret of the Ooze 30th anniversary show in Cocoa Beach, complete with appearances by both Michelangelo and Donatello on stage (see attached photos) that my family and I were in attendance for. It was a reminder of both a brief moment of time that those of us who were there ‘back in the day’ experienced together, and validation that that moment was truly something special to be a part of.
Last night, ’90s rapper and longtime Florida resident Vanilla Ice knocked the socks off of Cocoa Beach, celebrating the 30th anniversary of 1991’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (which he briefly appeared in) with one of the wildest on-stage parties in recent memory…and of course Rewind ItMagazine were there to cover the entire event!
Upon arrival, TMNT screenwriter Todd W. Langen and producer Kim Dawson, who each worked on the first two films, were on stage, revealing trivia and partaking in some Q&A with audience members. Although slightly on the awkward side at times, there were no doubt some interesting facts thrown in throughout, such as Langen’s treatment of the original film’s screenplay being written in just ten days. It was directly at the end of this segment that the crowd caught it’s first glimpse of the Ninja Turtles, as Michelangelo and Donatello then appeared on stage.
After this, the music finally began, as local musicians Zander and Brian Lion unleashed their brand of reggae/surf rock on the crowd. To be honest, I’m not much of a fan of Sublime-type bands, which is what their sound heavily reminded me of. Still, those in attendance did not seem to mind as the guys went through numbers like “I Wanna Rocksteady” and “Ocean Floor.”
DJ Mark Longnecker was next up, and arguably performed the longest set of the evening (perhaps even longer than anyone had originally expected?). Regardless, he mixed in the sounds of many old school rap, hip-hop, and R&B artists that included everyone from TLC, Debbie Deb, Run-DMC, The Fat Boys, Whodini, Grandmaster Flash, Kriss Kross, Beastie Boys, Coolio, MC Hammer, Digital Underground, and Prince. It was equally exhausting as it was entertaining.
Finally, the one and only Vanilla Ice took the stage by storm, opening with a surprisingly ripping version of “Minutes of Power” from his 1994 ‘hardcore’ effort, Mind Blowin’. It didn’t take long for the Ninja Turtles to make it on stage again, as Ice quickly ‘kicked’ into “Ninja Rap,” unleashing pure pandemonium from that point onward.
Covers of Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” and Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” followed, before tearing into his hit version of Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music.” By now the Ninja Turtles were joined by other costumed dancers, local beauty pageant winners, and even Ice’s right hand man from The Vanilla Ice Project, Wes Kain himself (who was dressed as Elvis and draped with an American flag). The mega hit “Ice Ice Baby” followed, and predictably received the highest praise of the night.
But it didn’t end there; Ice followed it up with a killer rendition of Kaskade’s “Ice,” before proceeding with more covers of Young MC’s “Bust a Move,” Lil’ Troy’s “Wanna Be a Baller,” Ginuwine’s “Pony,” Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic,” and M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes.” Finally, he ended the night on a bittersweet note, dedicating a version of Bob Marley and The Wailers’ “No Woman No Cry” to the U.S. troops. It was a surreal moment, one where you could feel the genuine appreciation Ice had for every member of the crowd who has been there supporting his long-lasting career more than three decades later.
For many in attendance, last night’s show was pure nostalgia; there was no doubt a touch of that for me as well, having been a fan of both Ice and the Ninja Turtles since I was kid. But being there in the moment, witnessing so many aspects of my childhood alongside my wife and my own teen-aged son (as well as an old friend of the family in tow for good measure) will surely remain a treasured memory of mine for many years to come.