Of course “Ninja Rap” and Secret of the Ooze have been fairly castigated in recent decades as everything silly in kids’ entertainment became hallowed ground in adults’ modern geek culture. Over recent years, that’s meant the admittedly far superior first TMNT movie, 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, becoming something of a classic. And to be certain, it definitely is the best Ninja Turtles flick ever produced, with Golden Harvest and New Line Cinema being somehow convinced to allow men in Jim Henson suits to flip around the rooftops of Hell Kitchen. As directed by Steve Barron, there’s even a tangible grit to its photography of late ‘80s Manhattan. The Turtles curse, swing swords, and a giant rat named Splinter uses a nunchuck to drop the Shredder off a rooftop.
It’s still a solidly PG children’s entertainment where the villains’ lair is littered with arcade cabinets and a skateboarder’s half-pipe, but the nostalgic romanticization it elicits tends to overlook those details. Just as it overlooks that a talking rat is also shown communicating with the talking turtles by using the power of
the Force Ninjitsu to cast astral projections, and that the aforementioned Turtles also love nothing more than skateboarding and eating pizza.
1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has got an edge for a family movie, sure, but Taxi Driver, it ain’t. But its reputation in geekdom skews toward that because of how silly, and ultimately terrible, this franchise became to adult eyes by the time Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III rolled around in 1993.
Even so, it’s time to stop lumping Secret of the Ooze in with that third movie because the Turtles didn’t get to use their swords and sais as much as they did in the first film—or that they danced with Vanilla Ice. Hell, it’s because they danced with Vanilla Ice that the sequel has a trace of pop culture relevance to this day, albeit as a two-bit piece of kitsch for the third graders. But then again, that’s who Ninja Turtles has always belonged to, or at least it has ever since that cartoon show with the catchy jingle in 1987.
And on the subject of catchy jingles, “Ninja Rap” has become a pop culture treasure for a reason. It’s even included as an easter egg in this year’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.
Onscreen the scene occurs in Secret of the Ooze because in their battle with the evil Foot Clan, plus new scary mutants Tatsu and Rahzar, the Turtles inadvertently bust into a Brooklyn nightclub in the warehouse district where Vanilla Ice and a pair of back-up dancers are bopping in synchronized unity. At a glance the scene appears to have instantly reached maximum levels of early ‘90s cheese… and then not one, but two guys with rat ponytails show up.