If you were like me in 1992, a nine year old with a love for ninjas, then “3 Ninjas” was one of the most kick ass movies of the decade. I worshiped Bruce Lee, and watched “American Ninja” constantly, so John Turtletaub’s film hit all the right notes with a young lad such as myself. “3 Ninjas” is the product of a time where every single studio sought to cash in on the success of “Home Alone” by offering their own unique twists on the genre. This time rather than Kevin McAllister being a devious little boy with Jigsaw-like talents for making traps, the studio provides us with tween protagonists of varying ages that are also practicing ninjas. As a whole “3 Ninjas” isn’t a lot like “Home Alone,” save for mid-way when the movie’s narrative literally halts to present us with its own truncated version of “Home Alone.”
The mid-section of “3 Ninjas” feels literally tacked on to the script, as if someone from the studio insisted the writers include some section, however small, that could offer fans of “Home Alone” something to enjoy. The mid-section itself is still pretty raucously funny, as our trio of young heroes outwits and out match a pair of bumbling would be kidnappers that look like Bill and Ted Cosplayers. Turtletaub does a bang up job with the material all things considered, as “3 Ninjas” is a fun and silly film in its context. The heroes of the film are Rocky, Colt, and Tum Tum, a trio of brothers sent to live with their grandfather, an elderly man wise in the ways of the ninja. Despite their parents’ wishes, he’s trained them all summer to learn the art of the ninja, including martial arts, stealth, and weapons training.
When they return home they’re unaware that their dad, who is an FBI Agent, is currently tangling with a vicious drug boss named Snyder. He plans to kidnap his kids to blackmail their dad, but things don’t go as planned, since the trio of boys is not just clever, and quick, but use their skills as ninjas in training to destroy the kidnapping efforts. This involves a lot of quick foot work, some well staged physical comedy involving camouflage, and a funny gag involving laxatives. The performances by the cast are serviceable, save for Rand Kingsley who seems to be mixing Tony Montana and Steven Segal in his performance. The trio of Michael Treanor, Max Elliott Slade, and Chad Power is charming, as they add some sense of individuality to their characters before the sequels just made them interchangeable moppets.
Yes, it’s silly, but the good kind of silly featuring three heroes that excel with their brains and physical abilities. Without the nostalgia goggles, “3 Ninjas” is mainly a movie for the kids to live out their fantasies of beating up ninjas and fighting crime. For the most part it works well as a movie that is funny, fun, and fairly painless.