The year was 1992, the ’80s were finally dead, and ninja-mania was winding down. Someone figured out that the best way to give ninja movies the dishonorable death they had been craving for years was to make the ninjas pizza-loving pre-teens. There are FOUR 3 Ninjas movies, and I recommend watching any one of them, but you could easily watch all 4, because they each have their own merits.
First, there’s 3 Ninjas. Despite being totally white, Samuel, Jeffrey, and Michael Douglas have a totally cool Japanese grandfather named Mori Tanaka. He lives in a cabin in the woods and he’s a highly trained ninja (allegedly). So, every summer, the 3 brothers stay with Tanaka and he teaches them the deadly art of Ninjutsu (allegedly). This summer is special, because, despite being very different ages, Samuel, Jeffrey, and Michael have attained some degree of ninja mastery (allegedly). In honor of this, Tanaka bestows NEW NINJA NAMES upon the boys. Are you ready? Samuel becomes “Rocky.” Jeffrey becomes “Colt.” Michael becomes “Tum Tum.” Rocky, Colt, and Tum Tum. Ninja names.
The rest of the movie involves Tanaka’s former student, Hugo Snyder, being an evil arms dealer and general bad guy who uses his assistant’s surfer nephew named Fester (and his friends) as thugs. Blah blah blah, the 3 Ninjas out-ninja Snyder and his minions. I’m skipping a lot because I want to cram the other 3 movies into this entry, not because you shouldn’t watch the movie. After they win, they all go out for pizza. Though critics were negative buttholes about it, 3 Ninjas generated a healthy box office gross, proving once again that nobody knows quality like the American public.
Next up is 3 Ninjas Kick Back, but this is actually the THIRD movie in the series. 3 Ninjas Knuckle Up was filmed before Kick Back, but released 3 years later. I’ll keep these in order by release, though. 3 Ninjas Kick Back only sees one of the original boys returning (Colt), the other two being replaced… you probably won’t care enough to notice the difference. Grandpa Mori Tanaka is also the same guy, but his name is now Mori Shintaro. This time, the 3 Ninjas are going through teenage problems (read: real world problems that really matter), and basically demonstrating how undeserving they are of being highly trained ninjas. The bad guy this time is Koga and his nephew Glam.
The trio goes to Japan to keep Koga from making Tanaka tell him where the lost cave of gold is hidden. Traditional ninja stories, you know? Koga, by the way, is an adversary that Tanaka defeated in a tournament 50 years ago. After being defeated this time, though, he decides to stop being evil. The movie ends with a bunch of little league baseball players trying to beat up a girl.
3 Ninjas Knuckle Up stars the original kids because it was made right after the first movie. What are they up to? Typical early ’90s sequel stuff, like stopping an evil industrialist named Jack Harding from illegally dumping toxic waste on Native American lands. Despite being highly trained ninjas, the boys continue to prove that they’re immature jackasses, but they end up maturing (allegedly) and saving the day by stopping a serial kidnapper from obstructing justice. Woo.
Finally, you have the bottom of the barrel, 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain. All three kids have been replaced, and we’re 6 years out from the original movie. Grandpa Mori Tanaka/Shintaro is the same guy. The title pretty much tells you what to expect, plus it’s the late ’90s, so Hulk Hogan, Loni Anderson, and Jim Varney are here. The 3 Ninjas are growing up, but they’re going to Mega Mountain one more time, where Dave Dragon (Hogan) is retiring his action hero status. Suddenly, Mary Ann “Medusa” Rogers (Anderson) and Lothar Zogg (Varney) take over the park, hijacking all the rides with computer hacking because she wants 10 million dollars. And…
So. This is exhausting, I’m done. That’s 3 Ninjas in a nutshell. Again, I recommend watching one of them, at least. I’ve watched two and a half. It’s my time, and that’s what I chose to do with it.