Judge David Johnson was pleased to find a Ralph Macchio joke in this decent little ninja spoof.
"There's a lot of kicking in this movie."
Um, there's a lot of kicking in this movie.
Facts of the Case
Writer/director Bill Sebastian stars in this ninja spoof movie, documenting the adventures and misadventures of a young, wannabe ninja named George McGoogle. Young George, hooked on ninja flicks, got it into his head as a child to become a ninja himself, much to the chagrin of his hapless mother.
So George takes off for Japan and enrolls in the White Ninja camp (the blood rivals of the Black Ninjas). There, he endures a lengthy training montage to sharpen his skills.
Life is good for George McGoogle, the Irish American Ninja. He makes a name for himself as the scourge of the Black Ninja clan. But when the Black Ninjas' most powerful warrior bests George, forcing him to beg for mercy, a striking revelation is made: the mysterious warrior is George's long-lost brother!
Unfortunately, it's not a joyful family reunion for the McGoogles; George's brother, Gertrude, in a fit of murderous passion over his girlish name, murders his father. George, upon learning this dirty little family secret, sets out to seek vengeance.
But when the trail grows cold, George is a ninja without a vendetta, and seeks an alternate use of his deadly skills: making movies. Soon, his new movie career and his past will collide, and blood will be spilled.
I would love to give a ringing endorsement to Irish American Ninja. I really would. It's a surprisingly well-made, sporadically hilarious short, independent goof-fest, fronted by a charismatic young actor. What holds it back is simple: a few too many jokes fall flat than work. That slightly off-balance ratio holds back my enthusiastic recommendation.
But let's dispense with the poo-pooing for now. There are some funny, inspired moments in Irish American Ninja and while the cumulative weight of the jokes may not sway me to utter partisanship towards the film, the good bits are worth noting.
Irish American Ninja is told in a non-linear, documentary-like form. The gimmick is this: George McGoogle, now homeless and washed-up, is sought out by a journalist to share his story. So that's how the film unfolds, with George telling his story, which is related through flashbacks and interviews with people who knew him, and narrated by some guy with a deep voice.
While certainly not a unique narrative method, I got a real kick out of the storytelling set-up. It allowed for Sebastian to exert his considerable lunacy in any way he sees fit.
Some of the funnier sequences arrive in montages (Sebastian stops just short of going overboard with this tactic), depicting either a moment in the Irish American Ninja's life or in his mind. For example, we see a sequence set to breezy pop, as George envisions what his idyllic life will be like once he reunites with his brother. You want to know what I think is funny? Two ninjas running around holding hands, pushing each other on a swing or dancing in a gazebo. Likewise, the string of shots of George haplessly auditioning for parts in Hollywood, being turned down repeatedly by a bizarre selection of directors. Funny stuff.
Unfortunately, the laughs aren't as even throughout the film. When the jokes work, they work as well as any I've seen elsewhere, but when they flounder, well, it betrays the indie low-budget nature of the film. There's the oft-used (and oft-mocked) training montage, which, sadly, isn't exploited for the comic potential it could have yielded; Sebastian relies just on some ho-hum slapstick.
Likewise, I feel that the film is populated with missed opportunities. Sebastian has some comic chops, and I would absolutely check out any stuff he put out subsequently. Overall, Irish American Ninja is a clever, unevenly funny, flawed little picture, which I would recommend for a gander, stopping just short of a wholesale endorsement.
I dig the appearance of this film. The digital picture (1.85:1 non-anamorphic) is very clear, despite the different filming looks Sebastian employs (some of the ninja fight scene are shot deliberately grainy). The movie sounds good, too, with a pretty strong Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix. Oh, and be sure to stick around for the hilarious end-credits song, "American Ninja."
A nice cross-section of extras accompanies George McGoogle's feature film. Sebastian offers a lively commentary track, and a hefty behind-the-scenes feature sports interviews and on-set footage. Lastly, there a lot of deleted scenes, some of which are very funny.
Yes, it's not a complete success as a comedy, but Irish American Ninja boasts enough hits to not be overwhelmed by the misses. Worth a blind buy? Maybe not. But it is worth a look.
Just north of not guilty.
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Studio: Film Out Releasing
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