Thursday, 28 December 2017

Review #1,286: 'The Toxic Avenger Part II' (1989)

Five years after he fell into a drum of toxic waste and stated taking revenge on the school bullies that had harassed him his entire life, Melvin Ferd AKA The Toxic Avenger (here renamed Melvin Junko) returned for a sequel as Troma's lucky charm. Troma are a small production company proudly trafficking in schlock, but 'Toxie', New Jersey's first and only superhero, was a surprise hit, spawning comic-books, action figures and even a stage musical. Directors Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman - also the company's founders - knew there was money to be made, and the character ended up getting three sequels. 1984's The Toxic Avenger, like Troma's fellow cult classic Class of Nuke 'Em High, was so memorable because it was funny, off-the-wall and had real heart buried deep within.

This cash-grab sequel seems to forget all of this, and in blowing its load far too early in the film, sucks all the fun out of Toxie and his crazy adventures. Having completely rid Tromaville of crime, Toxie (played by both Ron Fazio and John Altamura following the latter's dismissal), has made the town a haven, and the hideous but gentle creature with super size and strength enjoys life looking after the blind and shacking up at the junk yard with his (also blind) girlfriend Claire (Phoebe Legere). A life without crime has given Toxie a chance to reflect, and in his depressed state he decides that the only way to fill the void in his heart is by confronting his estranged father in Japan. With the good-hearted monster off to Asia in a sailboat, evil corporation Apocalypse Inc. move into town to spread toxic waste and evil in equal measures.

To give The Toxic Avenger Part II its due, there are quite a few very funny moments. A small appearance by Michael Jai White making his big-screen debut and watching the oblivious Japanese public gaze with curiosity and terror as the rubber-suited hero struts through Tokyo are some of the highlights, and an early extended fight scene is just absolutely bonkers. But Toxie's trip to Japan feels more of a diversion from the lack of care taken with the story, which is all over the place and takes way, way too long to reach its end. While some of the jokes land, around 90% fall flat on their face, with a heavy reliance on childish slapstick humour and silly costumes for cheap laughs. The daftness is quite endearing for a short period of time, but then it hits you that this is what you're getting for a whole 100 minutes, and the film quickly becomes an absolute chore.

Directed by: Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman
Starring: Ron Fazio, John Altamura, Phoebe Legere, Rick Collins
Country: USA

Rating: **

Tom Gillespie

The Toxic Avenger Part II (1989) on IMDb

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