this is gonna sound disreputable and will probably keep us from being taken seriously as critiquers of motion pictures but 3 ninjas: high noon at mega mountain is exactly the kind of movies that make me believe in what we are doing, and the kind of movies we choose to write about. it fits about three of the five categories that made up our motto, those little words below our name up at the top. i suppose i could put on my nostalgia glasses, criticize it condescendingly, make jokes about how horrible it is, make hipsters laugh, and get more hits. but that would not be honest. and what’s the point of beating down on movies with bad reputations? what? double dragon is bad? super mario bros. is not good? it’s the equivalent of paris hilton/kardashians/jersey shore jokes, or a stand up routine about the difference between men and women. see, white people do it like this/black people do it like that.
more importantly, how big of a douche does one have to be to pick on kids (movies)?
but enough about undeserved internet phenomena, since about 98% of all things viral are undeserved.
3ninjas4: hi-noon @ mega mountain is the third sequel in the 3 ninjas series. because of my age and since i don’t have kids (yet), i’ve never seen any of the previous movies (and probably never will). as far as i know, this is the only one in the series that has a die hard-ish situation so here we are.
in classic sequel mode, the i.o.a.s. shows the eponymous ninjas training with their asian grandfather (victor wong from big trouble in little china, tremors, ringo lam’s the adventurers, mystery date, in his last film appearance) even though no one else in the family looks asian and none of the ninjas from the previous movies return. it’s the youngest ninja’s birthday and they decided to go to a theme park named mega mountain, somehow without any adult supervision. of course, it’s the same day that loni anderson takes over the theme park for ransom, and a tv star named dave dragon is supposed to make an appearance at said theme park. also tagging along for the, er, ride, is the new neighbor girl who you can tell is expert at computer/hack-y/tech stuff since she wears glasses and a baseball cap. in case you miss the point, she is introduced holding a laptop that controls a remote helicopter. i don’t want to spoil the movie but there is a slight chance that the opening training sequence or the new girl’s computer skill come in handy later on in the movie.
what i will divulge is that this is indeed a pg die-hard-in-an-amusement-park movie. you would think there would be plenty of them by now but no, somehow the die hard-ish movies keep getting stuck on various buildings (high rise, nuclear silo, military base, warehouse) or transportation modes (train, bus, ocean liner, submarine). the closest we’ve got to this premise is the chickened out version of beverly hills cop iii. setting the die hard-ish expectations aside, yes, i am saying this pg movie is gutsier than the r rated beverly hills cop iii.
made before the popularity of matrix-y wire fu, plastic video game-y cgi, the word “tween” becomes a thing, and ninja being co-opted by midwest trailer park residents dressing up as clowns, 3 ninjas iv is surprisingly action-packed. the three tweenjas have fight scenes that look more authentic than many dtv action movies that came later, starring adults. in fact, specific sequences in the movie, taken out of context, would be adequate in an actual die hard-ish movie.
while the three new ninjas fare suitably, the terrorists are quite a group. anderson, as the leader, seems to have brought numerous costumes with her, including a nun outfit and a dominatrix black leather garb. the group, of course, is multicultural. there’s the jamaican guy with a rasta hat as the main hacker. there’s a redneck guy with a hilariously bad mullet wig. of course, one of the terrorists has to be german. eventually there are grown ass ninjas, with swords. they enter the park on jet skis like dennis hopper’s gang in waterworld and then through an underground tunnel a la the rock. i’m not quite sure why they go through all that trouble instead of buying tickets. i’m sure mega mountain has some sort of group discount.
each side has a noteworthy second in command. hulk hogan as the tv star, who’s show (think power rangers + hulk hogan) has just be cancelled, plays a supporting role to the three ninjas. he doesn’t get much to do but it’s not as goofy as suburban commando. after being taken as a hostage, a kid goes up to him and said “are you a hero or are you just a fake like my dad said?” i’m sure it’s not suppose to make you think about his day job as a wcw wrestler since several sources have assured me that wrestling is real.
jim varney (ernest) plays the main henchman for the other side, named lothar zogg. this is indeed a reference to james earl jones’ character in dr. strangelove. varney doesn’t get a lot to do in the movie either. he does have a fight scene on top of a ferris wheel with one of the ninjas.
maybe it’s because i’ve seen too many die hard-ish movies, and rarely any live action kids movies but 3 ninjas legacy feels more lively and inspired than even most adult oriented action fares. they committed to the single setting and utilized the theme park well. a lot of lines, scenarios, and sequences are straight from die hard 1, but you feel that someone spent time and effort to change things up a bit. this makes it less generic and mechanical. i appreciate the effort. director sean mcnamara co-wrote the screenplay with jeff phillips and they add some unique touches to the movie. e.g. ten minutes after a fight scene, the kids walked pass where the fight took place, they pass by a goon they beat up earlier, said goon starts to stand up and one of the ninja kids hit him on the head casually. it’s just a little moment and it’s funnier in the movie than my description. there are several little casual touches like that.
despite all that, this is not quite a recommendation. it feels long near the end even though it’s only 93 minutes. long final fights may be expected in action movies but since no one in the movie dies and the heroes are kids, it highlights the goofiness in an already goofy movie. it’s also kind of weird that they only close sections of the park but not the whole park. so there are people running around willy-nilly. as a movie that’s supposed to be for kids, there are some weird references. after the opening training sequence, the grandfather asks the kids “oh, so you think you’re the master of your domain, huh?” it’s probably best not to think of the seinfeld connection. anderson’s gruber dresses in the dominatrix outfit for half the movie, with a whip at one point. the three kids are as well drawn as characters as the ninja turtles (one’s supposed to be funny, one loves to eat…etc).
i’ve seen worse die hard-ish movies made for adult by adult. and i’m sure there are worse kids movies. think of it as toy soldiers for a younger demo, or a more thoughtful masterminds, but of course, nowhere as good as power kids aka force of five. it would be a missed opportunity to simply regard it as a bad kids movie, it’s better than that. this is probably one of the best part 4s of any kids movie franchise.
p.s. the score for the movie sounds like a combination of 80s spielberg/indiana jones and the police academy theme composed by robert folk, who also did the music for the die hard-ish with kids movie toy soldiers. you can listen to the song, titled ninja’s challenge, at john coda’s website.
p.p.s. director sean mcnamara (soul surfer, bratz: the movie, the cutting edge 2) will be directing baby geniuses 4 & 5, starring jon voight.
3 ninjas: high noon at mega mountain
the pitch: die hard in a theme park
bruno, the mcclane surrogate: three (new) ninjas
the gruber factor: loni anderson, jim varney
the hans objective: ransom money from the park owner by taking over his park
wrong place at the wrong time: they are in the park when the takeover happens but it seems like they could have just walk out
the help: the hulk hogan as dave dragon, star of a cancelled kids tv show; the new neighbor, a tomboy girl with glasses handles the computer/hacking
the family element: it may seemed weird that the kids go to the park without adult supervision, the dad turns out to be the one local fbi agent
bonfire of the weaponry: “karate,” smoke bomb, ninja star out of a yo-yo, sharp playing cards
last man standing: the three must have fought off eight or so adult ninjas with swords in an way overlong sequence. there is a pretty cool idea of fighting in the dark that is of couse, a callback to the opening training sequence. there is a bomb with a digital readout that surprisingly doesn’t get diffused with 2 seconds left. how they deal with it is pretty creative.
unbearables: the initial takeover is reminiscent of die hard 1 and many die hard-ish movies. there’s a black guy with glasses doing computer stuff, though he’s supposed to be jamaican. cops are called and eventually the feds show up. someone say “welcome to the party” but it’s said by the villain instead of one of the heroes. the villain takes a somewhat love interest hostage near the end. the villain’s prize, money instead of bonds as in die hard 1, flies everywhere at the end.
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