3 NINJAS, 1992
Starring: Victor Wong, Michael Treanor, Max Elliot Slade, Chad Power, Rand Kingsley, Patrick Labyorteaux, Race Nelson, D.J. Harder
Three young brothers who every summer learn martial arts from their Grandpa must put their skills to the test when they are find themselves the target of one of Grandpa's former martial arts students.
Have you ever sat down to watch a movie you remember enjoying when you were a kid, just to see if it's withstood the test of time? Sometimes you're pleasantly surprised to find that it's still as good as you remember (personally, I still love "Labyrinth" every time I watch it!). Others, you're shocked to find that as an adult, nothing in the movie is as funny as you remember or as dramatic or exciting. "3 Ninjas" falls under that second catergory.
Every summer, Samuel, Jeffery, and Michael visit their Japanese Grandpa. Grandpa is an expert martial artist and former ninja. He teaches the boys in the martial arts and the practices of Ninjutsu. Part of their training involves giving them new "ninja names" as well as uniforms complete with Japanese masks. Samuel becomes "Rocky", Jeffrey becomes "Colt" and Michael becomes "Tum Tum". (For the rest of this review, they will be identified by their ninja names.)
Meanwhile, the boys' father, Sam, who works for the FBI, is involved with a sting operation to take down weapons dealing crime lord Hugo Snyder. The FBI tries to make the bust, but Snyder has a plethora of ninjas at his disposal to aid in his escape. Snyder tells his bodyguard and assistant that he has a history with Sam's family. It turns out that Snyder is a former martial arts student of Grandpa, and that he rebelled once he decided he was a better fighter than the old man and no longer needed his help. He decides to pay a visit to his former teacher to convince him to get Sam (and the FBI) off his back.
Snyder arrives at Grandpa's house with a group of ninjas to test his old teacher. Rocky, Colt and Tum Tum aid their Grandpa and the 4 defeat the band of Ninjas. Snyder threatens Grandpa and tells him to get Sam off his back. Grandpa of course refuses, and Snyder leaves. Snyder comes up with a plan B: have the 3 boys kidnapped and use them as a means to get Sam to back off. He hires his assistant's dimwitted surfer nephew and his two friends to kidnap the boys.
The boys are riding bikes with their neighbor and friend (and Rocky's love interest, according to the famous chant "Rocky loves. Emily! Rocky loves. Emily!") Emily when they are confronted by bullies who steal Emily's bike. The boys challenge the bullies to a basketball game to get Emily's bike back and offer up a 9 point lead to the bullies with first to 10 winning. Using their ninja abilities, the bullies are easily defeated and Emily's bike is returned to her.
When their parents go out, the boys find themselves home alone with a babysitter. The three numbskull surfer dudes hired to kidnap the boys show up and tie up the babysitter. The boys decide they can take on their would-be captors, and set up booby traps around the house, "Home Alone" style. The booby traps, along with some martial arts, is more than enough to defeat the three surfers, but Snyder has sent his assistant and bodyguard as backup and the boys are taken hostage. When their parents and Gradpa find out what happened to them later that night, Grandpa suits up in his ninja uniform to go out and rescue the boys.
"3 Ninjas" was the movie that got me interested in, and involved in, karate when I was in Elementary school! I seem to recall it was a hilarious movie with amazing martial arts and I had thought to myself "if they can do it, and they're just kids like me, then I can do it!" I was very disappointed to watch this movie again now, in my late 20's, to discover that the movie is not that funny (just a couple of smile moments here and there) and that the fighting scenes are actually pretty pathetic and slow paced.
The acting from the 3 boys was ok, considering their young ages, but I feel like there were better child actors around when this was made. But, what's done is done and the acting from these boys was at least passable and watchable.
The story, even though it was played out far more cheesy than I remember, was entertaining and kept me watching. It was like a fun cross between "Home Alone" and "The Karate Kid". It wasn't quite as good as either of the titles it emulated, but it was still entertaining.
"3 Ninjas" may still be entertaining to a young child in the age range the movie was geared toward back in the early 90's, although kids today might wonder why Rocky and Emily were communicating by any means other than texting. Sadly, though, if you're an adult looking to watch this for the same nostalgic reasons I did, you will be disappointed. Even with the disappointment, it's not TERRIBLE... it's just nowhere near as good as I remembered it being.
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