Directed by Jon Turteltaub. Starring Victor Wong, Michael Treanor, Max Elliott Slade, Chad Power, Rand Kingsley, Alan Mcrae. (1992)
REVIEWED By Pamela Bruce, Fri., Aug. 14, 1992
Preceded by the humorous animated short Petal to the Metal (which features the screen debut of Disney's newest toon star, the bumbling bobcat Bonkers), 3 Ninjas is long on promises of delivering rousing, satisfying family entertainment with a ninja flavor, yet it's a blatant lack of originality which ultimately undermines the film's actual payoff. The first third of the narrative has a telltale essence evoking The Karate Kid -- complete with a Sixtyish Japanese grandfather/martial arts mentor (Wong) and three, as opposed to one, young proteges (Treanor, Slade, and Power). Meanwhile, a flimsy plot tries vainly to pull itself into coherent shape involving the boys' father -- an FBI agent (McRae) -- who is hot on the heels of yet another sleazy, international-thug-in-an-Armani-suit-and-ponytail (Kingsley). A big (and I do mean big) suspension of disbelief is in order when it turns out that Grandpa is a former ninja master of -- you guessed it -- the very same criminal that Agent Dad is extensively pursuing. Soon everything lapses into a second-rate Home Alone when a trio of stumbling, bumbling surfer dudes are sent to kidnap the boys. Don't count on an abundance of solid ninja action to be the film's saving grace, either, for it's few and far between. 3 Ninjas is basically harmless, but it's not entertaining enough to fully engage adults or the under-12 set -- especially once the popcorn and sodas have been polished-off. The worst thing is you can almost bet that an executive at Touchstone has already put the wheels in motion for a sequel to bloat an industry that is already chock-full of uninspiring films such as this one.