Surf's up! Time to save the world!
Johnny, Adam, and Iggy are three grommets longing to nose ride some aggra. These southern Californians ain't amped about school or history because catching gnarly waves and taking an Aqua Boris is where they wanna be. One day, a weird looking shoebie with an eye patch shows up and saves these Basils from becoming shark biscuits at the hands of some camouflaged ninja rompers. He tells our hapless resin monkeys that they are really Asian royalty and that their destiny is to return to their homeland of Patu San or end up with a bad case of R.S.N. (rash nut syndrome) at the hands of Colonel Chi. They must defeat this insane Bennie and his gang of Cañoneros or be forever considered dribblers. So they journey back home with an arranged gidget and Tone Loc in tow for reasons that only someone who has goat boated salt water for 16 years could explain, and run into a bunch of pineys, pseudo-locals, and limpeezos. But after a few lessons on some homemade esky lids, the civilian army is transformed from gremos to fibers. They all catch some macking lip and head to Chi's carpark for a little martial arts peewarmation. After chunking and keging, it's jabbas for everyone!
(Translation: Three California surfers go to an imaginary Asian nation to fight a stupid bad guy because some tool in an eye patch convinces them there are royalty in exile. They defeat evil by using "surf" technology and Sega Genesis. The End.)
There is an attempt to fashion Surf Ninjas into a Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker style satire on the entire Three Ninjas, Teenage Mutant Turtles genre of kiddy kung fu films. And with its wild art director, nonsense joke names, and goofball sense of humor, one would think it could work. But it doesn't. While it is an entertaining diversion from the everyday struggle to stay above ground, its clash of conflicting concepts is never full realized or successful. It is only mildly amusing when it wants to be outrageously wacky. It is only semi thrilling when the fight scenes and martial arts battles are well staged and executed. Director Neil Israel is responsible for some of the '80s best (scripting Real Genius) and worst (directing Moving Violations) movies, so it's not surprising that this film is hit or miss, light or strained. The casting makes for labored cinematic bedfellows indeed. While this film reeks of an obvious attempt to fashion a starring vehicle around young Asian martial artist/actor Eddie Reyes Jr., the inclusion of Rob Schneider as his dimwitted surfer bud and Leslie Nielsen as a metal faced scoundrel just doesn't work. Reyes is a good looking, physically strong fighter but could use some advanced techniques in sense memory to perfect his "dude" stylings. Schneider is given nothing to work with and his noticeable ad-libs make the film more idiotic than comic. Nielsen thinks he's involved in a Naked Gun, tongue in Tojo version of Tai Pai, and can't seem to see the villainy for the cheese. He just shameless mugs for the camera in a manner that would make bush babies with St. Vitus dance jealous. Still, as a non-offensive means of wasting 87 minutes of your life, Surf Ninjas is really not that bad.
As the final entry in a seemingly never-ending pile of product from New Line, the less said about the lack of special features the better (and by the way—is it possible to score 10 out of 10 on that dang blasted Pick a Flick remote control workout?). The anamorphic widescreen image is super, and the Dolby Digital audio (in the popular 5.1 or 2.0 Surround formats) is perfectly acceptable. Much of the film was shot in Thailand and Hawaii, and the fertile lushness of the surroundings is wonderfully captured on this DVD. Again, New Line offers a full screen option and with a title like Surf Ninjas that's okay, since you won't be missing very much under a pan and scan-san image. But this all begs the question, why make this film in the first place? Was there some sort of juvenile culture call for a movie brimming with lame surfer jargon, odd looking Asian peasants, and a bloated John Karlen? Were the youth of America, desperate for an honest set of heroes, supposed to find these borderline illiterate street skate rats admirable? Were we really supposed to believe in the magical, precognition skills of a handheld video game console? Maybe a target audience of desert dwelling sand fleas would warm to this crazy mix of faux comedy with karate chops. But for others, Surf Ninjas will be a major case of rag dolled red roses, or a full out bullwinkled buzzkill.
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