Pocket Ninjas (1997)

Pocket Ninjas DVD CoverPocket Ninjas is so awful it doesn’t even cut it as a fifth choice for a movie about three young douchebag ninjas after you’ve somehow plowed through all four 3 Ninja films. Without actually subjecting yourself to its seventy or so minute running time, it’s difficult to communicate the depth of its sustained failure.

Several times while enduring another of its endless and pointless training montages, I tried to remember why I even bought it, let alone continued to watch it. Then Gary Daniels would appear for a few minutes the Pocket Ninjas’s sensei and I sadly recalled that I was trying to fill in a gap in my project of watching the entirety of Gary’s filmography. That this project wasn’t suspended following a viewing of his space turd Spoiler will not reflect positively on me if I ever undergo a court ordered psychological evaluation.

In its broadest terms, Pocket Ninjas is about three kids who train at Gary’s strip mall karate studio. Gary, being the completely irresponsible ninja master that he is, decides to put the children at risk of being killed by giving them some fancy masks and ninja suits and has them go out and fight a gang trying to take over the city.

In Gary’s defense, he threatens to suspend the Pocket Ninjas from superhero duty after they come back from a battle with some bumps and bruises. I got the impression though that Gary was more put out that these twerps couldn’t get the job done than he was worried about them getting pounded into horse meat by the Stingers.

The mere recitation of the basest elements of the story in Pocket Ninjas doesn’t begin to explain the almost ninja-like mystical powers of suck the movie puts on display for its entire duration.

At his absolute best, Gary Daniels (Bloodmoon, Cold Harvest) is borderline serviceable in the world of third tier straight-to-DVD kickfighting movies. He’s like the bland Olivier Gruner, but more bland and with an accent that you can actually understand.

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In this movie though he is the acting anchor everything is built around. Virtually everyone else appears as if they were literally cornered at the strip mall and dragged in front of the camera for a day or two of stilted and halting line readings that would have been more convincing if they were all wearing those crazy ninja masks Gary hands out to all the students he’s trying to get killed.

It’s true that minor league cult figure Robert Z’Dar is also in the movie and that he sort of plays the villain, Cobra Khan. Robert’s main claim to fame though is possessing a cartoonishly huge jaw that will make some wonder if he isn’t a distant relative of horror legend Rondo Hatton. I said he sort of plays the villain because I was never sure if Cobra Khan was supposed to be real or not.

Pocket Ninjas for some reason periodically switches to scenes where the kids are imagining something happening that’s based on some stupid comic book they’re reading. This is where Z’Dar gets most of his screen time.

The kids imagine him battling the White Dragon (Daniels) in some sort of balloon factory. I suspect that it was played for laughs, but since I was never laughing I couldn’t quite be sure. There was a moment where they were jumping up and down on balloons that wouldn’t pop which may have supposed to been funny, but only resulted in me yearning for the normal-sized pain I endured during 3 Ninjas: High Noon At Mega Mountain.

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Other less ostentatiously idiotic touches include having the Pocket Ninjas fighting while wearing Rollerblades. The first time they roll up on the gang and begin to fight, you can distinctly see the littlest Pocket Ninja have some trouble maintaining his balance. That’s just like a real ninja, right?

The incident brought to mind a Silver Screen saying that dates back to the days of D.W. Griffith: “those who forget the lessons of previous awful Rollerblade karate movies are destined to repeat them and probably get the ankles of their actors twisted.” I mean, didn’t director David Eddy learn anything from the godfather of inline skating cinema, Donald G. Jackson? Actually, he probably did because Donald G. Jackson (Roller Blade) is listed as a director of the skating and some fight sequences!

Not surprisingly, much of the movie is quite simply padding. The frequent shots of both the good guys and bad guys working out will give your fast forward finger several reps as will the needless scene at a local parade. And when you aren’t being subjected to padding, you’ll wish you were.

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Like when Gary meets one of the Pocket Ninja’s moms and it’s love at first sight. The movie suddenly adopts this dubbed voice-over technique so we can hear what he and the mom are thinking even as they are also talking out loud! Then it’s never used again. Well, there is also a Wonder Years-like voice over by a grown up Pocket Ninja at the beginning and end of the movie, but I didn’t have a clue what the hell he was jabbering on about.

I wasn’t even sure when the movie ended since they battled the bad guy kid using a virtual reality game that featured footage of Z’Dar fighting people in super fast motion, but when it was over, we never saw the bad guy kid again and things sort of just petered out.

You could easily author a ten volume encyclopedia on everything that stunk like the inside of those masks after an afternoon of skating and fighting, but the sooner we pass this nunchuk-sized kidney stone through our movie urethra, the better. Frankly, the only thing that appeared to be professional in this whole project was the DVD cover. It features three little kids (who were not in the movie) dressed as ninjas and for some reason they were wielding a household cleaner called Scat, a broom and a plunger – all items Pocket Ninjas was in desperate need of.

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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