Mix in equal amounts of KARATE KID and HOME ALONE, stir in a couple doses of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES, add a dash of "chopsocky" action comedy, and you have 3 NINJAS, an entertaining, though hardly original, action comedy for youngsters ages six to twelve.
Ever since Rocky (Michael Treanor), Colt (Max Elliott Slade) and Tum Tum (Chad Power) can remember, the three brothers, ranging in age from seven to twelve, have been the grateful pupils of their maternal grandfather, ninja master Mori (Victor Wong). Mori shares his home and gardens with his three
athletic grandsons where he also trains them in the technique of martial arts, much to the chagrin of their father, FBI Agent Sam Douglas (Alan McRae). He's on the trail of Hugo Snyder (Rand Kingsley), a notorious arms dealer and a ninja master in his own right, since he was once the pupil of
Grandpa Mori himself.
When Sam gets too close to closing in on Synder, the ruthless arch criminal, who will stop at nothing to maintain the power structure of his despicable organization, orders Sam's three sons kidnapped and held hostage until Sam agrees to abandon his efforts to crush Snyder's operations once and for
all. The crime boss sends a trio of not very bright punks to apprehend the boys. Fortunately, twelve-year-old Rocky, eleven-year-old Colt and seven-year-old Tum Tum spot trouble before the goons can execute their plans and this enables the boys to practice their karate skills on the bumbling
Though they've clearly won the first round, the boys have not won the war, for Synder next dispatches a troop of ninja soldiers to accomplish what the dumbbell punks failed to do. Fortunately, the boys, well aware of the plot to capture them, visit Grandpa Mori for more intensive training. In
their favor is the fact that the evil Synder was once Mori's pupil and since Grandpa taught Snyder everything he knows about kung fu, he is able to give his grandsons crucial pointers on how to defend themselves better against any future kidnapping attempts by Synder and his henchmen. Eventually,
the boys are caught by the ninjas, but they refuse to lose their cool and a David-and-Goliath-like opportunity arises shortly after the boys are made prisoners in the hold of a ship docked off the Southern California coast.
Sam, who had previously disapproved of Mori's training his sons in the martial arts, is now extremely grateful to him and Sam and Mori join forces to rescue the youngsters. Meanwhile, the boys make their own plans to escape and bide their time, awaiting just the right moment to make a move.
Ultimately, Mori is forced to meet Synder face to face and is challenged by Synder to best his former pupil in a vicious martial arts confrontation. What finally saves the boys, however, is the force of their own absolute faith in themselves and their own strong personalities: Rocky musters all
the maturity of his young years and proves beyond doubt that he is in control of his own life; Colt, the wildest of the brothers, can now make his natural rambunctiousness pay off for him; and little Tum Tum, a boy used to being loved in a home where familial devotion is mutually shared, can now
put his tremendous faith that everything will turn out alright to the test.
Since this is a Disney family film, it doesn't require a doctorate to guess the outcome. But 3 NINJAS offers much that youngsters, particularly boys, can identify with and, for its target audience at least, the film offers near perfect entertainment.
While adults may get a few chuckles from the proceedings, they will undoubtedly take note of some major flaws in the plot's plausibility. For example, early in the film the villain witnesses the martial arts prowess of the three youngsters he later orders kidnapped. Yet, despite his awareness of
the boys' athletic abilities, and despite the fact that he already has in his employ a master martial arts henchman, Rushmore (Toru Tanaka), he nevertheless inexplicably hires three incompetent goons to carry out the initial kidnapping attempt. Of course, without the scenes where the boys outwit
the goons in true HOME ALONE fashion, young audiences would be cheated out of the highlight slapstick comedy moments, so the filmmakers, obviously, felt justified in not concerning themselves too much over plot inconsistencies.
The three young actors portraying the title characters, Treaner, Slade and Power, are all scene stealers and Power is especially adorable. As their Grandpa Mori, Victor Wong, a veteran of such art films as DIM SUM and EAT A BOWL OF TEA, and mainstream pictures like THE LAST EMPEROR and THE GOLDEN
CHILD, is splendid. Rand Kingsley and Toru Tanaka make convincingly menacing villains, while Alan McRae and Margarita Franco round out the cast as the boys' parents.
Director Jon Turteltaub is to be congratulated on keeping the proceedings exciting without resorting to unnecessary violence, and he directs with a sure hand from a competent screenplay that proves quite workable despite its plot discrepancies. In fact, everything about 3 NINJAS bespeaks a high
degree of competence. While one could wish the film offered something more original than its strictly formula heroics, it benefits from a generous portion of charm. And most kids attending 3 NINJAS are likely to stand up and cheer the rousing, action-packed finale.
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