‘Tis the season to be… mildly disappointed. It’s Uncanny Fox again, continuing my celebration of terrible Christmas specials with the1994 direct-to-video disasterpiece, We Wish You A Turtle Christmas, featuring yet another live-action version of those crime-fighting Heroes In A Half-Shell. Only these ones don’t really fight crime. Or even hide in the shadows. Or are even remotely entertaining.
Yeah, the mid-90’s were a trying time for our heroes in green. Not only did Turtles In Time flop the previous year, but the cartoon show ended after a controversial re-tool and a ratings battle with the then-up-and-coming Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. So, in a somewhat misguided attempt to remain in the cultural zeitgeist, a series of direct-to-video musicals were released in October 1994, featuring the Turtles as actors in costume. There were only two: this one, and another called Turtle Tunes, in which the Turtles sing about the virtues of picking up litter and staying away from pedophile ninjas. I’m only slightly kidding.
Oddly enough, this video came out in the same month as Alpha’s Magical Christmas (leading me to believe that 1994 was cursed or something. Didn’t the OJ Simpson thing happen that year too?), and it was directed by Larry Osborne (not to be confused by the pastor/public speaker of the same name), whose brother Barrie helped produce such films as Apocalypse Now, the original Matrix, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. And here poor Larry is with only two crappy Ninja Turtles videos to his resume and not even his own Wikipedia page. It really is a Mario/Luigi situation.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at We Wish You A Turtle Christmas, and see why this thing never got a DVD or digital release after its initial VHS, which I missed out on, just like last week. So I had to cheat and use Youtube for this review. Ah, the internet.Keeping terrible things alive despite all attempts to leave them buried. But then again, I’m contributing to the problem by talking about it… uh… let’s just get on with the review, shall we?
The special begins with an intro sequence of a blue-tinted New York and the 80’s logo zooming out.The camera cuts to a glowing yellow manhole, then some turtles crawling in ooze as a corny rock song that wouldn’t be out of place in an after school Bible class about how the Turtles “laugh and sing and do their thing” plays. Why they didn’t just use the cartoon theme is beyond me.
We see shots of the boys with footage of real turtles laid out over top (as if to remind us what turtles are supposed to look like),and let me tell you, these guys are terrifying.They have massive heads with a disturbing slasher smile permanently spread across their faces, like twisted mascots from Disneyworld that are trying to kill you. Not to mention their fake, plastic-looking lime-green skin,ill-fitting shells that you can see the straps to and the fact that Raph and Mikey have roughly the same shade of mask. Forget Turtles In Time, the Turtles in this video make the effects in The Next Mutation look high-quality. Let that sink in for a moment…
After a lengthy credits sequence set to the tune of snow falling (couldn’t you have just put those names in during that whole music video back there), we finally cut to the Turtles in their lair on Christmas Eve, setting up a Christmas tree while Raph breaks the fourth wall and asks the kids at home if they need more lights. So I guess this is the ’86 version of Raph, minus Rob Paulson as the voice. Yeah,good ol’ Rob is sorely missed here, as the voices of the Turtles all sound roughly the same, kind of a mix of Raph and Mikey.
Leo starts singing this Jamaican accented, TMNT-themed version of “Deck The Halls” (so I guess this is the Rise version of Leo, who I’ll admit is starting to grow on me. He’s certainly funnier than the dumb Turtles in this special) as he wraps Christmas lights around himself (he thinks he’s the tree?) while I notice that the puppet work in this special basically amounts to the Turtles’ mouths moving up and down like sock puppets. Really helping with the creepiness there.
Other points of note in the song are Leo saying “part” but it sounding like “fart” and mentioning Beebop, Rocksteady and the Shredder, although none of those guys appear at any point here. In fact, there’s no fighting at all, which might be a blessing given the poor production values of everything else. Seriously, any fight that would come out of this video would be one of the Turtles hitting The Shockmaster repeatedly in the face with a mop.
Once that’s finally over, Raph runs through the family’s Christmas list, exclaiming that all of their shopping is done. Now they have to do their wrapping, but it’s only 5 o’clock, so they’ve got time. Although I don’t get why they waited until Christmas Eve to do their gift-wrapping. Or put up their tree.
While Mikey reaches for a pizza and Leo puts a bow on Donnie’s head, Raph asks what they got for Splinter… only for everyone to realize that they forgot about him after a brief game of “Wasn’t My Job,” in which Leo got presents for the kids (what kids? Unless you’re talking about Mikey’s secret dinosaur-princess hatchlings, yes that’s a thing), and Donnie got Splinter something last year. So now the boys have to hurry up and get Splinter a gift on Christmas Eve, just as the stores are closing. Or they could just get April to run over quick and pick something up, but then again, I’ve seen her brand of “gift”-giving in Turtles In Time. They’d probably end up with a hamster wheel without a hamster to go with it and the videotape from The Ring.
So, the Turtles head up to the surface, all the while singing a version of “Over The River And Through The Woods.” Because there’s nothing more stealthy or ninja-like than singing loudly, especially when you’re trying to keep your very existence a secret. There’s also the fact that the Turtles’ mouths are just hanging open in a dumb “gahh” expression when they’re supposed to be singing about how they have no clue what to get and all the stores are about to close. I was going to make a joke about how stores would stay open on a major shopping holiday, but it turns out most of them close early on Christmas Eve. So there, this movie was accurate in one regard. Stopped clocks and all.
Meanwhile, a band of street kids starts playing as the boys finally reach the streets, where they start singing another song about how they gotta get a gift, gotta get a gift, gotta get a gift for Splinter. Okay, I’ll admit, it’s kinda catchy, even though none of the voices in the song match up with the voices of the Turtles. So much so that some of the local street kids start dancing along with them, as they throw gift suggestions around like a set of golf clubs, a bowling ball or some ice stakes (You’ll notice that those are all related to things you can’t really do in a sewer). And dancing around, which is just wasting the time they claim they don’t have,what with the stores closing and all.
When the song stops, Raph points out that they only have two hours left to shop. So, the stores all close at 7? I mean, 5 or 6 is usually the latest, so by their count the guys are already too late. Anyway, there seems to be a fade-out for a commercial break (on a direct-to-video release) then the brothers are all pacing in front of the famed Christmas tree in the middle of Rockefeller Center (that tree is normally much bigger). Mikey starts to break into an opera song as it randomly starts snowing, much to the dismay of his brothers.
Which of course is wasting even more of their time and drawing attention to themselves, such as with the Salvation Army Santa dude nearby, who doesn’t seem all that bothered by the freaking mutant turtle people with their flappy mouths hanging open right in front of him. In fact, Raph takes his bell at one point without a word. I’m pretty sure that’s a good way to get decked by Santa on Christmas Eve. Then Mikey’s brothers try to lift him,but ultimately give up in what might be the funniest bit in this whole stupid special. After it finally ends, Raph tells the gang that they only have 1 hour left. Wait, they were standing there for a whole hour?!? None of this scene makes any sense.
They take a cab to the store (again, revealing themselves to the public), which is just a sparkly blue background, where they (or just Mikey – or is it Raph? Again, they really needed to pick a different shade of orange) pick up such great gifts as a pair of sneakers (Splinter doesn’t wear shoes), some TMNT comic books (wait, how do those exist if the Turtles do? Is this supposed to be like the X-Men comics in Logan?), a bunch of Yo-Yo’s (I guess he could use them in his ninja training, the Yo-Yo was originally invented as a weapon, after all) a skateboard (okay Mikey, are you just shopping for yourself at this point?) and the coup-de-grace: an old, moldy pizza in a picture frame. Just… what is that thing doing in a store? Who would purchase such a thing? Wait, forget I asked, we already know…
And then they head home, where they wrap their gifts while they clap each other’s hands, get uncomfortably close to the camera and sing a painful rap song called the “Wrap Rap.” They were the one rap group Eminem couldn’t diss… because their music was already the greatest insult anyone could give them. How is Splinter not hearing you guys carrying on like this? Leo says about how he’s not sure he can get the gifts all done tonight. Well, maybe if you stop clapping with each other and just wrap the gifts, you wouldn’t take so long. And what is with that green light blinking on and off in the background?It’s headache-inducing. Just like the rest of this special.
They finally get all their terrible gifts under the tree and tell each other “goodnight” like they’re the Waltons. Mikey’s stands out in particular, because all three of his brothers tell him “nighty-night” in a tone of voice that sounds like they’re plotting to kill him in his sleep.
The next morning, the boys open their gifts, with Donnie thanking Leo in one of the most hilariously dickish ways I’ve heard: “Thanks Leo, I was gonna buy one myself.” Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds kind of backhanded. Splinter, who looks like day-old roadkill and sounds like a 20-year-old chain-smoker doing a lousy Asian accent, tells them to gather round and “rock and roll.” He starts singing a modified version of “The Twelve Days Of Christmas” as he shows off the stuff the Turtles gave him. And as this goes on, some random kid has apparently wondered into the lair without anyone noticing. Nice job on your secret lair, guys. Towards the end, Splinter starts singing faster, only to lose count of where he is in the song and try to wing it the rest of the way. My brain hurts.
The Turtles complement Splinter on his singing, with Leo calling it “the longest song ever written,” (I’m sure Jimmy Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” still has it beat) while the old rat thanks them for their gifts. It’s the thought that counts, I guess. Not that there was a whole lot of that put into this. But Splinter is worried that they have all lost sight of the true meaning of the Holiday season, which was never brought up at any point in this special before: sharing, being with people you love and thinking of those less fortunate that you. Like the people who who had to help produce this crappy video.
Splinter tells the boys that their love for him is the greatest gift of all. And the only one he’ll ever need, which is good considering how terrible their present game is. Touched by Splinter’s speech, Mikey calls for a pizza and the special ends with the Turtles, Splinter, and a whole bunch of kids that just randomly popped up from out of nowhere singing “We Wish You A Turtles Christmas,” to the tune of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” What is it with these Christmas specials and the heroes just letting kids into their secret hideouts? And of course, they’re lip-syncing, why wouldn’t they be? Although there is this one girl who’s really into it.
Cue the most generic end credits sequence I’ve seen in one of these reviews, as the Turtles crack more bad jokes off-screen. And it keeps going for a good bit after the credits are done, just to prolong our suffering further.
So, now that we’ve finished talking about the story, on to Pros and Cons:
- That “Gotta Get A Gift” song is kinda catchy.
- This is a thing that exists.
Oh… oh sweet half-cousin of God as played by Morgan Freeman. This is horrible. Do I even need to point out why? Bad costumes, bad singing, a plot that doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense – this video is an objective failure on all levels. The only thing I can give it over Alpha’s Magical Christmas is that they actually made new songs for this instead of just playing the stock Christmas carols, but originality only takes you so far if the end result isn’t good. And this is not good. At all. If you want to watch a Ninja Turtles Christmas special, check out the ’03 series episode “The Christmas Aliens,” which has Mikey finding a lost kitten and taking some toys back from the mob. Leave this one in the part of the Pet Semetary that doesn’t bring people back to life, because in this case, dead is better.
*Checks list* Hmm… it doesn’t look like I have anything else on the agenda here. Guess I’m starting my Christmas break a week early. I know I’m gonna need it after the year I’ve just been through. Anywho, I’ve been The Uncanny Fox. Live long, stay gold, and…
A doorbell rings.
Fox: Huh? That’s the door… wonder who that could be…
Fox heads to the door and opens it.
There isn’t anyone there, just the ancient box from last week laying at the doorstep. Fox bends down to pick it up.
Fox: What’s this? An early Christmas gift?
He pulls off the note taped to the lid and reads it.
Fox: “Go ahead and open it now. In fact, I’m counting on it? – You know who I am?” That’s… weird. Maybe Santa’s got an early surprise for me…
He opens the box, causing a foreboding red light to pour on to him and a voice to echo out.
Voice: Stir, whip… Stir, whip…
A look of horror slowly spreads over Fox’s face as he realizes what is inside.
Fox: No… no… it’s not true… it’s impossible!
He starts pacing nervously, looking back and forth at what is now in his possession, as if briefly looking away will erase the harsh truth in front of him.
Fox: I can’t do it. But now I have to. The reviewer’s code requires it! I have to review it! But,it’s so bad… the acting… the writing… the filler… nothing but growling… no subtitles… do… not… want…
He looks into the box one last, terrible time… then falls to his knees, the pain of what he must now face pouring out toward the heavens in one long, dramatic,unintentionally humorous cry as tragic music plays in the background.
Fox: DO NOT WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaa
To Be Continued…