Surf Ninjas

Directed by Neal Israel. Starring Ernie Reyes Jr., Nicolas Cowan, Rob Schneider, Tone Loc, John Karlen, Ernie Reyes Sr., Keone Young, Kelly Hiu, Leslie Nielsen. (1993, PG, 87 min.)

REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., Aug. 27, 1993

They surf in the first half and ninja in the second, but this light comedy adventure never really takes off. Fictional brothers Reyes, Jr. and Cowan discover that they are not simply California surf dudes but actually heirs to an Asian island empire that has been taken over by an evil despot (Nielsen). Led by a mysterious stranger in a black eye-patch (Reyes, Sr.) and accompanied by friend Schneider and L.A. police detective Loc, they return home to face their destiny. Israel's talent is to be aggressively lightweight as a writer (Police Academy, Bachelor Party, Moving Violations, Look Who's Talking Too) and as a director (Bachelor Party, Moving Violations, Americathon, Tunnelvision), but this is not necessarily bad. The comic book-paced script isn't the problem, the film becomes tedious because Reyes, Jr. and Cowan simply can't get over the fact that they're in a movie. Reyes, Jr.'s range consists of smiling while Cowan's is slightly more expansive, including both smiling and suppressing a smile. According to the press kit, “Reyes [Jr.] starred in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a stunt double for Donatello, prompting the producers to create a role for him in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.” Its success led to Surf Ninjas, athletic ability and good looks being more important to this story than character. Schneider, fast and funny, is the best thing about the movie and when I mentioned this to Chronicle film editor Baumgarten, she just groaned (Schneider's success is as “The Copymeister” on Saturday Night Live). The film has the right attitude, and the story the right snap; it's half stupid and half adventure, but it never gets interesting because of the two grinning idiots at its center.

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