What better way is there to get into a franchise than through its final film? They must have perfected the series by that point, right? Right?!?!?
3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain
Rocky, Colt and Tum Tum’s afternoon at the popular Mega Mountain amusement park is cut short when it’s invaded by the glamorous international criminal Medusa (Loni Anderson) and her henchman, Lothar Slogg (Jim Varney). With the help of washed up TV action hero, Dave Dragon (Hulk Hogan), and their cute tech-wiz neighbour, Amanda, the 3 young ninjas work together to save the day and foil Medusa’s evil plan.
Comes after: 3 Ninjas (1992), 3 Ninjas Kick Back (1994), and 3 Ninjas Knuckle Up (1995)
Returning performers: Victor Wong (as Grandpa), Margarita Franco (as Mom) and Alan McRae (as Dad), None of the 3 Ninjas.
Theatre or DTV: Direct to video.
Current Rank on IMDb’s 100 Worst List: 89 (2.4/10 with 6,622 votes)
Kids love people who are really good at kicking shit, so it was only a matter of time before Hollywood gave them a franchise dedicated to young white kids being trained to do exactly that by their wise Asian grandfather (a Japanese character played by a Chinese-American actor, whose apparently half-Asian daughter is played by a clearly Latina actress who somehow managed to mother three of the most Caucasian looking children the universe has ever known). The first two entries in the 3 Ninjas franchise managed to do well enough in theatres to justify two more DTV sequels, of which today’s example proved to be the last. Was this a case of the series merely losing steam or being snuffed out earlier than it might have by creative incompetence?
Judging by what I watched, it seems more the former than the latter. Despite the film’s low IMDb rating, High Noon at Mega Mountain is no better or worse than any other DTV film made for the children’s market. If anything it has a few saving graces that elevate it to a higher level than I expected.
Chief among these is the performance of Loni Anderson as the film’s leather-clad villain, which strikes all the right notes and—I’m sure—left many of its young viewers with confused feelings they couldn’t quite understand at the time. In a clear example of the filmmakers getting away with something purely because no one was paying attention, there’s a moment in the film where Medusa, unconvincingly disguised in a nun’s habit, tells a security guard she’s there representing “Our Lady of Perpetual Motion”—a joke that surely meant nothing to its intended audience, but which had me laughing after I immediately recognized it as a reference to George Carlin’s “I Used to Be Irish Catholic” routine from his classic comedy album, “Class Clown”.
Unfortunately the filmmakers keep these adult friendly in-jokes to a minimum and settle instead for a predictable series of action scenes, which are admirably executed by their young cast who appear to be performing many of the complicated fight scenes themselves (though they are occasionally helped out by speeded up footage).
The result is bland, maudlin and cartoonish, and lacks the “What the fuck!” factor of similar Asian-produced films like Lucky Seven (1986) and the Young Dragons/Kung Fu Kids series, but is likely the sort of thing I would have watched happily over and over again when I was six or seven years old.
Chances of my watching other films in the franchise: I’m good.
Final Franchise Entry Rating: One and a half high kicks out of four