By George Rose
September 15, 2009
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
You want to see what it's like to be a transformed freak of nature and live among close-minded humans? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shares that single aspect with District 9. Though rather than dealing with the transformation process or trying to reverse it, TMNT deals with life after the mutation of a few turtles into full-grown, pizza-eating ninjas. I may have forgotten to mention, this isn't for adults like District 9. TMNT is very much for the young at heart.
Anyone who has seen a Saturday morning cartoon in the last twenty years knows about TMNT. You may have forgotten about them, since cartoon toy lines like Transformers and G.I. Joe overshadow it with their extravagance, but they were once among the most popular franchises for children. That's why the first live-action TMNT movie was actually a $100+ million box office hit. The novelty seemed to wear off by the second go-round (it grossed less than half what the first one made), which is a shame since I think it's the better of the two movies. Who cares about giant ninja turtles learning how to fight? That's just, well, childish. Why watch the origin story with a much smaller budget when you can watch the real essence of the show in an action-packed, big budget sequel? With the origin out of the way, there's room to mutate other animals too! God bless sequels.
Okay, fine, it's not critically acclaimed and you'll likely hate it if you've never seen the cartoon, but c'mon! There are so many terrible TV show-to-movie updates out there (gee, it just breaks my heart that the Dallas movie can't get off the ground) and audiences keep supporting them with blind devotion. Luckily movies like this past summer's Land of the Lost proved that audiences aren't always fooled by reinventing old shows, but one that shouldn't be missed by true fans of the series is TMNT 2.
If you don't see it because of blind devotion, then at least give it a shot out of curiosity. The Sex and the City movie is really just five episodes stuffed into one ticket price; the joy of TMNT is that the movie offers something entirely different, mutating the turtles as we knew them into live action entertainment. It even uses old school puppetry instead of the more cartoonish CGI. It may not seem like a revelation now, but in the eyes of a six-year-old, it's just about the greatest idea since mixing peanut butter and fluff. So if you have kids, show them these movies before Michael Bay buys the property and casts Shia LaBeouf as the turtles' mutated rat leader, Splinter. Don't laugh, because I wouldn't put it past him.
Spirited Away (2002)
Just because I grew up and now find TMNT slightly less engrossing than I once did doesn't mean I don't still appreciate animation. One of the movies I was sad to have missed while on vacation was Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo, the most recent animated movie by the legendary Japanese director. I got the chance to see it in the last few days and thought it was wonderful, but not as good as his previous work Spirited Away.