Revisiting ‘Turtle’ power

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By Erin Tobin

By Erin Tobin

Four amphibians that mutated from “ooze,” lived on pizza in the sewers of New York and fought crime with amazing martial arts skills doesn’t seem like a sellable plot . All the same “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” took the 1990s by storm and they did it all with style.

It is pretty clear to those who watch the movie why “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” was the highest grossest independent film of all time.

For those who were too young to remember or were actually living in a sewer themselves at the time the movies came out “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” really begins with Channel 3’s Eyewitness News reporter April O’Neil, played by Judith Hoag who was later in “Armageddon.” O’Neil is covering a mysterious rising crime spree by members of what is known as The Foot.

The Foot is contrived mostly of weary adolescents who don’t feel they belong in the rest of society. They also have pretty strong karate skills. So when O’Neil finds herself cornered by members of the gang she is following, it takes four mysteriously shaped strangers to save her.

These strangers are of course Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo and Raphael, the only four Italian artists’ names that any kid from the ’90s could remember. These four “heroes in the half shell” not only talk like surfers, but could have possibly started the American craze with pizza.

O’Neil and the turtles are joined by the even more mysterious Casey Jones, played by “Collateral Damage’s” Elias Koteas. Jones is also dedicated to fighting crime, in his own personal style which happens to be through the use of a variety of sports equipment, including a cricket bat. It is also obvious that Jones takes classes in insensitivity.

In addition to this group of vigilantes is Danny Pennington, played by Michael Turney, the son of O’Neil’s boss, Charles Pennington. After being chastised by his father Turney’s character runs off to join The Foot and meets up with their horrific leader “The Shredder,” whose name alone brings up many one-liners.

In fact, most of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” strength lies in its comedy and dialogue. Soon after the movie’s release “Cowabunga” was a word on everyone’s lips, unfortunately. Obviously, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” had a strong team of writers. The life of teenagers is truly captured in this quartet of green heros. There is never a dull moment in this movie and the youngsters laugh just as hard as the adults do. The movie is chocked full of references of everything from “Critters” to “Moonlighting.” There are also many classic, “I can’t believe he said that” moments that are hard for anyone to forget, even 10 years after they saw it.

Jim Henson’s creatures also did an amazing job with the turtle costumes for the actors. Somehow the image of giant, fighting turtles never seems awkward. The actors inside the turtle suits (who actually all make another appearance in the course of the movie as regular people) aren’t recognizable at all.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” was followed by two other movies, though neither was as good as the original. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze” didn’t fall too short but still had a slower storyline and was missing many of the strong actors that made the first movie so popular.

Still, the second movie included the highest point in rapper Vanilla Ice’s career, which isn’t saying much, when he sang “Ninja Rap,” a song that everyone sort knows and will try to sing once the movie is mentioned.

There is no discussion of the ’90s without mention of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” This movie changed the way a whole generation spoke and how they looked at pizza.

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