|Film Title: The Toxic Avenger: Part 2||Year Released: 1989|
|Reviewed By: Egregious Gurnow|
|Movie Website: Click Here|
|Overall Stars: **||Scare Factor: *1/2|
Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman return with the follow-up to their dauntingly successful cult classic, The Toxic Avenger. Unfortunately, the satire isn’t as potent, the plot nearly as engaging, or the film nearly as satisfying as its forerunner. Aside from a handful of sardonic barbs in the form of cultural criticism, one would be well advised to, lest the viewer is a Toxie completist, enjoy the original a second time.
After the Toxic Avenger (John Altamura) has cleaned up Tromaville, he finds his life devoid of purpose and takes a job as a concierge at the Tromaville Center for the Blind. An assassination attempt upon Toxie’s life takes place, lead by the Chairman of Apocalypse Inc. (Rick Collins), who deduces that to own New York, he must first gain Tromaville, and to do so he must first eliminate the mutant do-gooder. However, after his murderous plot is foiled, the Chairman pays Toxie’s psychiatrist (Erika Schickel) to inform Toxie that his depression is due to being raised solely by his mother. She then suggests that her patient go to Tokyo in order to find his lost father, Big Mac (Jack Cooper). What Toxie doesn’t know is that the man posing as his father is a hired hand of Apocalypse Inc., who holds the antidote to Toxie’s superpowers. As Toxie searches for his father, Apocalypse debases the Tromavilla population as they set their authoritarian scheme in motion.
First things first. Three major players in the original are swapped in Herz and Kaufman’s sequel, all for lesser actors who fail to recognize or understand the previous actor’s contributions to the roles they are assuming. Granted, as with any Troma work, breaking the cinematic rules is the rule, but when you have a character-driven story, the last thing you want to shuck when it comes to cinematic convention is the face of your stars. Though whomever is playing Toxie is hidden behind a sheet of latex, Mitch Cohen’s masterful slapstick timing and mannerisms are missing throughout as John Altamura appears to only periodically remember that the success of the character is largely due to comedic insinuation. Jessica Dublin steps in for Sarabel Levinson in the role of Melvin’s mother, the former being quite younger than the latter and, for any viewer with a smidgen of a memory, the shift in appearance is quite disconcerting. All of the aforementioned misnomers come second tier to Toxie’s girlfriend, who not only changes faces via Phoebe Legere, but apparently experienced a life-altering event between films in that--in lieu of the fact that she is playing a blind character--she nonetheless focuses upon various objects and figures throughout the film. All of this atop the fact that her name, for whatever inexplicable reason, migrates from “Wanda” to “Claire.”
Now, granted, the entire film, fortunately, doesn’t compliment the numerous casting mishaps but, having said this, The Toxic Avenger, Part II doesn’t hold a flame to the original. Our main conceit this go around is a satirical, less than subtle, representation of big business as Apocalypse Inc. establishes a micro dictatorship while Toxie is abroad. Yet, the filmmakers only invest a fraction of their time developing this concept in that their preoccupation lies with a sardonic criticism of American and Japanese cultures. For instance, as Toxie windsurfs to Japan (yes, the entire way), his voiceover meditations include, “At first I found it hard to believe that my father was Japanese, and that I was part-Japanese. But that would explain why I’ve always had these strange, non-American urges to work very hard, save money, and live without credit cards.” Predictably, yet satisfactorily, Kaufman seizes the opportunity to insert advertently poor overdubbing for his Japanese characters as every Eastern figure is seen with a camera in tow (in their native land!) as well as the depiction that everyone in Japan is somehow involved in the fish trade.
Kaufman continues with Malfaire (Lisa Gaye), a CEO of Apocalypse, stating to her board, “Gentlemen, even comic book villains like us can tell if you want something to work, you buy a Japanese product.” Yes, thankfully, it didn’t take long for Kaufman and Co. to avail themselves to the comic possibilities that postmodern cinema might afford them by way of self-reflectivity. Cleverly, Malfaire makes her declaration after pointing to a screen playing Reel 2 of The Toxic Avenger. However, the directors haven’t finished with us quite yet in this regard for Toxie quips that if he doesn’t save Tromaville, there is little chance that Part III will see the light of day.
Admittedly, for all of the hyperactive creativity in the original (which is only echoed in Part II in the film’s excessively energetic sound effects, second only to the 1960s television series, Batman, starring Adam West), it seems as if Part II wasn’t as well plotted nor polished as just as many, if not more, Ritalin-negligent ideas run amuck throughout. Though it is an unwritten rule that the antagonist must post more of a threat the second go around than in the first, Kaufman’s mistake is--instead of upping the bad guy’s aptitude for evil--he divides the malevolence into Eastern and Western factions, the former having many, many faces along the way, thus dissipating the tension even more. To add insult to narrative injury, Toxie’s foes are obligated to be less threatening overall in order to be more readily dispatched so that the film doesn’t break pace.
Part of the charm of the original is the mile-a-minute parodies in the form of allusions and cinematic references, which are largely M.I.A. in the second installment. Though we are granted a fleeting moment sponsored by the 3 Stooges and a passing reference to Bruce Campbell’s chainsawed hand in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II, there is nary a wink or a nod in any other artistic direction outside of the touché exchange between the Chairman of Apocalypse Inc. and a homeless woman (Florence Gummersbach). After the latter asks that the corporation spare the town park in that it is her only refuge, the former retorts, “Neither a borrower, nor a lender be. --Shakespeare” to which the homeless woman spits back, “Fuck You. --David Mamet.”
Even after placing Toxie in a hovercraft and presenting us with break dancing and “hoedowning” headless corpses, Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman failed to match the energy, drive, humor, or fun of their original. Outside of a few cultural quips, there is little of note in their sequel, The Toxic Avenger, Part II, outside the hard-learned lesson that when starting a follow up, you should at least procure the same leads and, if you can’t, be damn sure not to change the character’s names.
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