Sunday, December 11, 2016

Is That a Ninja in Your Pocket, or....

I tend to avoid movies that came out after the early 1990's. That was when Hollywood started mining previous works for pointless remakes/reboots of familiar movies and television series. Sadly, that trend continues alongside the shitstorm of superhero movies. Don't get me wrong; I occasionally watch more recent films, and I tend towards Team Marvel when I want my superhero fix.

Given my vague cut off date for films I prefer to watch (not so hard to understand given 80+ years of cinema to choose from compared to just the last 20 or so years), I sometimes show up late to the game for certain films, like The Room and Birdemic: Shock and Terror.

Add to this the fact I'm not a huge fan of martial arts films in general (I mean, didn't they have two guys and one woman do 90% of the dubbing for most of the kung fu flicks from the Seventies?), and you can see how something like Pocket Ninjas wouldn't exactly make it on my film radar. Made in roughly 1994 and not released until 1997 and was apparently made for foreign markets in an effort to cash in on the vaguely similar 3 Ninjas movies, which were making some decent bucks back in 1992 and 1994, it's easy to see how this got lost in the shuffle.

Well, after watching it recently, I can honestly say I've seen worse, but I'll be damned if I can think of a title right off the top of my head.

Three young karate students are recruited by their instructor to help fight a rise in crime being perpetrated by a group call the Stingers. To be honest, given how bad the sound is, I kept thinking they were called the Stinkers. Doesn't really matter as they all look and act like stereotypical thugs just so you know they are the BAD GUYS.

At this point, please place your brain in a jar of pickling brine. It's for the best. I will attempt to explain the rest of the plot, but I only have what I was given by the movie, and even the film has no idea what the hell it is or wants to do or tell.

There is a supposed leader of the Stingers called Cobra Khan. You see him now and then, and the 3 kids are told never to engage him in combat as their instructor, who is also known as the White Ninja, is the only person capable of defeating him. But when we finally met the leader of the gang, we get some 12-year-old kid who is known as Cubby Khan. Aww, isn't that as cute as a LOLCat meme?

The Stingers are also helping some industry fat cats with dumping toxic waste into the ocean/river/lake. It would seem that this isn't terribly profitable as the gang still spends time roughing up the local citizens, though they never really seem to rob anybody. Again, the main thing is that you know they are the BAD GUYS.

Our supposed heroes hang out in a tree house where they spend a lot of time trading snarky insults and trying to figure out what is happening in a foreign language comic book called White Ninja, which features a guy dressed like their instructor, who is also the White Ninja. The kids envision wildly different interpretations of the comic which makes no sense as a comic book is a visual format so the only thing that would be up for interpretation would be the dialogue.

Toss in endless montages of the kids and Stingers training (this is obvious padding to get the film to a proper length for the foreign distributors as well as enhancing the mind-numbing factor of the film), an out-of-place and overly long fight sequence in a room full of balloons replete with cartoon sound effects and music cues, the bizarre sudden inclusion of one character's mom who chases after coupons and a beefcake photo pulled by fishing lines by the Stingers, and a weird injury suffered by the White Dragon that seems to come and go according to the needs of the plot.

If none of this seems to make much sense, you are right. The film supposedly started out being directed Donald G. Jackson, who, based on his other films (Roller Blade, The Roller Blade Seven, Roller Blade Warriors), has an unhealthy fascination with roller blades and fighting. After shooting a portion of the film, Jackson was cut loose by the producer, David Huey, who wasn't happy with what he was seeing. Supposedly, Huey stepped in and added to the script, then brought in Dave Eddy to finish off the shoot and try to make the whole thing come together. 

Well, that would explain quite a bit about the disjointed mess we now know as Pocket Ninjas. Things happen and then are forgotten. Characters are introduced and suddenly no longer appear. Dialogue is beaten, chewed up and spat out by actors who appear to want to be anywhere but in front of the camera. And poor Robert D'Zar hitting a low point in a career that wasn't the most buoyant to begin with.

I spent the bulk of the film feeling fairly queasy. I'm not sure how much of it was the film and how much was the Cymbalta I started taking the day before. I think I'll put equal blame on both.

Is Pocket Ninjas worth checking out? Not really. It tends to be just bad instead so bad it's fun. I think even kids with low standards would have trouble sitting still for this after the third or fourth training montage. About the only good thing I can say is that I didn't fall asleep. Take that for whatever it is worth. 

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