Monday, April 4, 2011

3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain (Movie Review)


      Um, is it possible to give a positive review of a bad movie, well, I’m doing it. “3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain” is one of those silly movies you love as a kid and they have a way of sticking with you. Even though I’ve grown up and realize how dumb this film is, I still have a very big soft spot for it. As a kid, I thought it was one of the coolest things ever, it’s literally like a mix between “Die Hard” and “The Karate Kid” and to this day the film still has some nostalgic charms that take me back to my youth. Growing up in the 90’s, I was introduced to a lot of silly children action movies like “The Power Rangers movie”, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie”, “Small Solders” and in the early 2000’s “Spy Kids”. This film is certainly on par with all of those as far as nostalgia is concerned. Now this was the 4th film in a series that began with “3 Ninjas”, “3 Ninjas Kick Back” and “3 Ninjas Knuckle Up” but I had never even heard of those films before I saw this and have never bothered to watch any of them after words, honestly, I'm just not that interested.

     The film begins with one of the greatest title openings ever, and a really cool opening scene with our 3 main hero’s going through an obstacle cores, which perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the film. After words, we’re introduced to our characters, three young brothers that are studying martial arts. The oldest is Rocky, the middle child is Colt and the little 6 year old named Tum-Tum. There’s nothing particularly special about them but there the kind of characters that kids always imagined themselves as, tough and saving the day. Anyway, the two elder brothers feel it’s time to grow up and move on with their lives but first they’ve got to treat their little brother to a special birthday treat, thrill rides! The movie takes place at a theme park called Mega Mountain, which is a really cool place to set a film like this. We get a nice little montage of them going on rides, and hanging out with friends matched to the song “Have a good Time”, which really got me wanting to go vacationing. Mega Mountain is really “Elitch Gardens” in Colorado Springs and it underwent a complete remodel, with all the signs for the park and rides changed for the film. After visiting the park myself, I was able to notice several spots and locations from the film.

     Anyway, trouble begins when a team of terrorists, gun men and trained ninjas take over the theme park. Their demands are for the park owner to give up his money or they will sabotage the rides, killing the customers. This premise scared the shit out of me as a kid, I couldn’t go to a theme park without imagining someone taking over the rides and killing off guests. It’s actually a very exciting and engaging premise, just like John McClain, our three young heroes try foiling there plains, fighting the terrorists and saving as many lives as they can. The action scenes were actually really cool, there’s a lot of swift choreography, great stunt work and an excellent use of their surroundings. Aiding the team is a girl named Jennifer, who may look like a real nerd but she’s actually one of the better characters, she was smart, helpful and contributes as much as our hero's Now get ready for this because it’s one of those things that can only happen in Hollywood. We learn that she’s spent a lot of time working with her dad on weapons for his movies, many of which she supplies to the team as weapons, including a remote control helicopter, smoke bombs, a yo-yo with sharp spikes and playing cards that can cut through steel. Geez, it’s no wonder these terrorists had such an easy time taking over this park, security here sucks!

      Leading the terrorists is a woman named Medusa played by Lion Anderson, who looks like Lady Ga Ga if she was a lion tamer. To be fare, the actress is really getting into her character and you can tell she’s having fun with it. My favorite character is Medusa’s right hand man named Lothar played by the late Jim Varney (you may remember him best as Ernest P. Worrell). He has this scared face, terrific evil grin, ninja sword, and never acted like a moron. Every time he’s on screen, he’s the only one you’re paying attention to. The situation is always more fun when you have a bones villain in the background and considering how stupid many of the others are, he's very refreshing to have in this film.

       The most useless character in the film is a retired TV star named Dave Dragon played by real heavyweight champion Hulk Hogan. He tries to help in this situation but is constantly getting his butt kicked or getting kidnapped and it’s literally not till the tail end of the film that he does something useful. Now to Hogan’s credit, he does try to give some dimension to the character and of all the films he’s done, this was easily his best performance. Basically, he’s a broken man finding his inner hero but unfortunatly he’s constantly getting upstaged by the kids.

        At times this film can have some good production qualities but other times it feels like something you’d see from a TV movie, and it’s no wonder because the director, Sean McNamara would go on to be the director of hit Disney TV shows like “Even Stevens” and “That’s so Raven”. Of cores this film is littered with continuity errors, hammy performances, dreadful dialog and lots of very loud, head ach inducing scenes. There’s also a lot of really silly, yet still fun clichéd moments like when the bad guys kidnap Rocky’s girl friend and actually tie her down to a rollercoaster track, it’s the oldest damsel in distress cliché in the book, but what kid doesn’t enjoy that silly stuff.

     The big problem with this film is that it portrays kids as fighters and that’s something that doesn’t sit well with parents. That’s understandable but for me it enhances a cherished fantasy for kids, that there stronger than they really are, that they can take on the villains and become hero’s. Kid’s love imagining stuff like that, they just need to remember the balance between fantasy and reality. Overall, it’s not a great film by any means, I know all the problems but damn it, I still have a really big soft spot for this movie. It’s the basic definition of a guilty pleasure flick, everyone has at least one and this is mine. It still has its charms, still has its entertainment, still has an awesome premise and it still takes me back to that wonderful, care free time from my child hood. I give “3 Ninjas: High noon at Mega Mountain”, um, oh, what the heck, I give it 3 ninja stars out of five.  

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