The year is 1992. The President of the United States, George H.W. Bush had been filmed vomiting in the lap of the Prime Minister of Japan. America saw that happen. To his credit, he also met with the President of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, to officially bring the Cold War to a close. But to his demise, this was also the year that William Jefferson Clinton played the sax on Arsenio Hall and won the primary for the Democratic Party.
That Summer, Clinton picked Al Gore as his running mate, Mafia bombings were making a huge come-back, China and South Korea established diplomatic relations, and Canada had a semi-major school shooting. Weird, right? Topsy-turvy land, or what?
In the wonderful world of Disney, Europe opened its first Disney theme park in the form of Euro Disneyland…which the Nazis had attempted years and years prior with their invasion of Poland.
The real takeaway here is the President of the United States vomiting on the representative from Japan…which really ties in nicely to today’s blockbuster Disney smash-hit: 3 Ninjas.
–But, Alex, that’s a Touchstone film, not a Disney film.
Well, my observant readers, Touchstone actually was a Disney company, just like Mirax. So that makes everything from Who Framed Roger Rabbit to Kevin Smith’s Dogma technically Disney Movies. So, suck it.
3 Ninjas is the first in a Disney film, then straight-to-VHS, franchise that I can honestly say is in need of a hard reboot. Not because the movies themselves got progressively better (the final film involved the children teaming up with Hulk Hogan and Loni Anderson to fight “thugs” in a theme park), but because America needs a nice heaping helping of cultural appropriation hysteria.
The whole movie essentially plays out like a Karate Kid rip-off, except their goal is to fight bad guys and defeat the main-bad-guy…instead of win a martial arts competition. Samuel, Jeffrey, and Michael are three brothers who get to see their elderly Japanese grandfather every Summer and have been receiving training from him since they were…uh…slightly younger kids?
These three white kids are straight-up not Asian-looking at all, except for the youngest kid having a little dark bowl-cut that every Asian man apparently is required by law to have. You can tell the writers avoided even hinting at any Japanese-like entanglements with the thoroughly non-Japanese nicknames their grandfather gives each of them: Rocky, Colt, and Tum-Tum.
Tum-Tum is the little one. He likes candy.
But who cares? After all, every single one of you “cultural appropriation” fah-gootz don’t even bother to take notice that the proud ninjutsu tradition is being taught and acted by CHINESE actor, Victor Wong. Mad? If you were Chinese and stupid, you would be.
Shit gets real when their dad, an FBI agent, tries to catch Hugo Snyder–a ponytail-clad arms dealer responsible for trafficking fucking warheads into the country.
Seriously, let’s pause for a second. Does anyone ever consider the enormity of the bad guys in these kids’ movies? It used to be like “Mr. Moneybags wants to take over the camp, but these kids gotta show him they got what it takes to save the day!” And then somewhere along the line when action films were at an all-time high, it became “12-year old Matty Pearson has to stop a nuclear arms trader from selling dirty bombs to the Saudis…and show him that he’s got what it takes to save the day!” This is a lot of pressure for a kid. Yikes on a bike!
Anyway, Snyder decides that he can probably get the 3 Ninjas’ dad to stop chasing him over these (I remind you) nuclear weapons if he kidnaps the 3 kids and holds them hostage. Piece of cake, Snyder thinks.
Well no way, Jose! These kids are precocious as fuck!
Snyder’s assistant, your typical squirrely Disney movie Jew, hires 3 mentally challenged surfer dudes to kidnap the kids, so you know this will turn out well.
The 3 Badguys (which would be a movie I’d love to see) are Fester, Hammer, and Marcus, and despite being hired criminals who rob convenience stores and such, they’re pretty kind and sympathetic.By far, the best characters in the movie.
Clearly orchestrated by the popularity of 1990’s Home Alone, the interactions with the bad guys are a comedy of errors culminating in the boys utilizing their “ninja” techniques to set up long-term traps and simply find objects around the house to mercilessly beat the intruders with. Fester winds up getting lynched, while the other two knuckleheads are induced into violent diarrhea (no joke).
The badguys’ next plot is to kidnap Rocky’s girlfriend, Emily and use her as a hostage to trap the boys…in order to use them as hostages…whatever. It’s a multi-level plan that no one really thought out completely prior to execution. Because this fails and Snyder ends up sending goons of his own to back up the 3 Badguys and capture the kids.
Evidently, the boys’ trust for their grandfather ran only skin deep, because they suspect him of being a partner in crime of his former friend, Snyder with no more evidence than an old photo of the two together. But the grandfather wins back their trust when he decides to take on Snyder, himself…almost getting himself shot in the process. The good guys win and the dad learns a valuable lesson about trust….or something.
So everyone lives happily ever after and the dad decides to reward his hero sons with…what else…PIZZA! Because we can’t think of any other ninja-oriented fictional characters who enjoy PIZZA, can we?! Oh–and get this–their Jap grandfather absolutely hates pizza! What an enormous “fuck you” to the real hero of the movie!
This series has been mostly highlighting “boys will be boys” Disney movies about main character kids who can’t seem to get in trouble no matter how objectively awful they are. Mainly because that’s practically all I watched as a kid…and 3 Ninjas is no exception, though we’ll inevitably have to bring you its following sequels: 3 Ninjas Kick Back, 3 Ninjas Knuckle Up, & 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain. All of which had production issues due to having to cut out scenes in order to keep them at PG ratings.
This movie is by all definitions flawless as an early 90’s pre-teen beat-em-up. Every element is there, from the badass kids that are inexplicably good at everything, to the damsel in distress saving herself, to the bumbling bad guys, to the big bad guy flying away dangling from a helicopter, and Victor Wong looking like a stroke victim with nothing better to do (also, no joke).
Thanks for reading, as always, and continue to reach for the stars…pre-9/11.