Should I Watch..? 3 Ninjas: High Noon At Mega Mountain
What's the big deal?
3 Ninjas: High Noon At Mega Mountain is a family martial-arts action comedy film released in 1998 and is the fourth and final film in the 3 Ninjas series. The film revolves around three young boys secretly trained as ninja by their grandfather who must work together to liberate a theme part that has been taken over by professional thieves. The movie stars Victor Wong (the only actor who appeared in each of the 3 Ninjas films), Hulk Hogan, Lori Anderson and Jim Varney. The film was released to universal derision from critics (if it wasn't completely ignored) and just managed to earn less than $376'000 in the US, by far the lowest amount in the series. The only reason I am even aware of the film is because I had noticed its semi-permanent residence on IMDb's Bottom 100 Films and wondered how bad a film had to be to earn such infamous recognition. As such, it is easily recognised as one of my least favourite films of all time.
What's it about?
During a summer holiday with their grandfather Mori, the 3 Ninjas - known as Rocky, Colt and Tum-Tum - are put through their paces to keep their training up. After overhearing that Rocky and Colt might not return next year as they feel they're getting too old for ninja training, Mori feels a bit down. Tum-Tum also gets depressed when his favourite TV show - Dave Dragon - is getting cancelled so his brothers decide to cheer him up by taking him and their new neighbour Amanda to Mega Mountain, a nearby theme-park where Dave Dragon performs a live show.
Rocky splits from the group to be with his girlfriend Jennifer while Amanda, Colt and Tum-Tum go to see Dave Dragon's last live performance. Unbeknownst to the kids, a professional thief called Medusa Rogers arrives with her team and secretly takes over the park, shutting down many of the rides and trapping people on rides. Demanding a $40 million ransom for the hostage's release, Medusa is unaware that the 3 Ninjas decide to team up with Dave Dragon to save the day.
Samuel "Rocky" Douglas
Michael O'Laskey II
Jeffrey "Colt" Douglas
James Paul Roeske II
Michael "Tum-Tum" Douglas
Mary Ann "Medusa" Rogers
Sean McNamara & Jeff Phillips
Release Date (USA)
10th April, 1998
Action, Comedy, Family
What's to like?
Part of the problem with being an online film critic, as opposed to a paid one appearing in national newspapers or magazines, comes in choosing what films to watch. A full-time critic is made to watch every type of film that comes their way, regardless of whether it suits them or not whereas I, on the other hand, can pick and choose what to see and write about from countless films from years gone by. This doesn't sound like much of a problem but it does mean that the films I do watch will be ones I naturally gravitate towards - in other words, I might be biased towards them and award them higher scores.
Obviously, this presents a problem. How can I judge one film against another when I have no yardstick, no measurement with which to compare films to? Very occasionally, the need to watch something that makes your jaw hit the floor with its awfulness needs to be viewed as a type of reset button. That's where 3 Ninjas: High Noon At Mega Mountain comes in because without hesitation, it is one of the worst family films I have ever had to endure in over a decade of film reviewing. Other than reminding me what a truly dreadful film feels like to watch, the performance of young Botuchis feels authentic enough to belong in a proper martial-arts movie instead of this tosh. Sadly, his career seems mired in occasional TV spots and B-movie shame so obviously, this film didn't do much for him.
- Victor Wong, the sole cast member of all four 3 Ninjas films, thought this film was actually the best of the lot because the characters developed more over the course of the film. It would also be his last film appearance as he passed away in 2001.
- It's the only film in the series without narration from the three boys, none of whom returned to reprise their roles in this film. Max Elliot Slade, who played Colt in the three previous films, decided instead to return to school.
- When the baddie CJ messes with the speed control on the rapids, pay close attention to the dial he actually turns. It's actually the temperature control...
What's not to like?
The film is an absolute farce, filled with PG-rated violence and characters so ridiculous that none of them would exist in real life. Anyone expecting kung-fu will be disappointed to learn that the violence extends to people falling harmlessly onto soft landings and goofy slapstick on various fairground rides, all of which are "enhanced" by comedic sound effects. The adult cast members over-act as though they were getting paid to (except Hogan who probably though this film was a masterpiece) while the kids aren't engaging enough for us to care about. I don't like kids leading movies at the best of times but at the very least, make them likable. These three are as anonymous as they come - their own mothers would struggle to pick them apart in an identity parade.
Varney, gifted comic performer though he was, wasn't helped by the script which reduced him to comic henchman while Hogan and Anderson, best years far behind them, look and feel embarrassed to be there. Other issues include the plot which didn't make a whole lot of sense (why are thieves graduating into hostage takers and why in a theme park?), a general lack of quality that suggests a miniscule budget and that horrible nagging feeling you get when watching a film sometimes that you can actually feel your spirit just ebbing away like someone in a coma. As if your very soul is saying to you "Seriously, you haven't got anything better to do?" The recipe for a good family film isn't that hard - entertain the kids but have some surprises for the adults to enjoy as well. 3 Ninjas: High Noon At Mega Mountain manages to get everything wrong, on a spectacular level.
Should I watch it?
Imagine you are coerced into babysitting for someone you don't like. The child is acting up, the parents are obnoxious people who never send you a Christmas card and there's nothing on the TV you can distract the shouty, screaming kid with. If you have no other family films in your possession and do not have access to any of the kids' channels, this could be a crisis. But there is a solution - by putting on this film, not only will the kid be asleep within 30 minutes but their obnoxious parents won't ask you to babysit again. In any other circumstance, avoid 3 Ninjas: High Noon At Mega Mountain like a Russian football hooligan.
Great For: come back to me...
Not So Great For: families, martial artists, the career of anybody involved with this garbage, the 3 Ninjas franchise
What else should I watch?
Having not seen any of the previous films in the series, I can honestly say that I'm not exactly in a rush to cross them off my list. Thankfully, younger fans of martial arts have plenty of alternatives. The obvious place to start is the animated adventure Kung Fu Panda and its sequels. Combining Jack Black's comical voice-over work with a high level of animation, the film is surprisingly respectful of martial arts as well as being an entertaining story. For live-action kicks, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are enjoying something of a revival after 2014's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the sequel Out Of The Shadows.
Where family films have truly flourished in recent years is with the plethora of CG animations that continue to flood the market. Blockbusters like Despicable Me, Frozen, The Lego Movie and Zootopia provided plenty of fun for younger viewers while still keeping stuff for grown ups to enjoy as well. Of course, they also provided more merchandising opportunities than any parent could possibly stand but that aside, these are all wonderful films that everyone can enjoy.
© 2017 Benjamin Cox