Surf Ninjas (1993)

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It’s time to ride the waves of destiny in this family action comedy that highlights the talents of young martial arts legend Ernie Reyes Jr.

Johnny and Adam are brothers who don’t care about much about school as much as they do about surfing. Raised by Mac, Johnny learns both he and his brother are adopted, but have no idea where they came from. They soon learn the truth about their birth right when they are approached by Zatch, the one-time guard of the Kingdom of Patusan. At first Johnny and Adam find the claims ridiculous. That is, until Mac is kidnapped by the forces of Colonel Chi.

Colonel Chi was responsible for the death of Johnny and Adam’s birth parents, but had become disfigured as a result of his ego. When Zatch leads the boys and their friend Iggy to Little Patusan, Johnny and Adam soon learn they are not just the princes and heir apparent, but the duo have certain skills. Adam is a seer, which he can see things through his video game system while Johnny finds his destiny as the warrior prince. With their newfound skills, they are ready to take on Chi and his team with the intention of bringing peace to Patusan once and for all.

With the success of his career as a kid in 80’s films like Red Sonja and The Last Dragon, alongside having his own TV series, Ernie Reyes Jr. once again got know when he did the fighting in the Donatello suit in the 1990 live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. This would lead to him having a supporting role in the 1991 sequel. To capitalize on this somewhat of a resurgence for his career and it leads to this film. While the premise is cute family fun in an era where the family film and martial arts genre meshed well, this is quite a fun film with a few ridiculous overtones.

The first of the ridiculousness of the film is the fact that Adam’s power as a seer shows him using those powers through his portable video game. Why they opted to go this route may not make sense but perhaps it is used to appeal to the young gamer crowd to bring more of an audience. The number two factor of ridicule in the film is that Leslie Nielsen’s character is that of Colonel Chi and on top of that, he’s not exactly the most intimidating villain. He is seen either complaining on a phone call or worrying about getting wet due to his robotic implants.

While the comedy is really at times juvenile (and that’s forgivable considering the audience this is geared towards), the martial arts action is actually pretty exciting. Choreographed by Ernie Reyes Jr. and his father (the taekwondo legend who also plays Zatch), the action is quite impressive here. To add a comic effect, the song “Ode to Joy” is hilariously played when Johnny’s skills are revealed and even he is in for a surprise. The finale does add some of the ridiculousness but still is okay and of course this being a family film, one knows how this will end.

Surf Ninjas is a fun yet at times ridiculous family film that has some great martial arts action and some mixed comic relief. Leslie Nielsen plays a ridiculous villain and the use of a video game as a seer’s tool is somewhat not appealing, but overall, not a bad film.

WFG RATING: B-

A New Line Cinema production. Director: Neal Israel. Producer: Evzen Kolar. Writer: Dan Gordon. Cinematography: Arthur Albert and Victor Hammer. Editing: Tom Walls.

Cast: Ernie Reyes Jr., Nicholas Cowan, Rob Schneider, Ernie Reyes Sr., Leslie Nielsen, John Karlen, Kelly Hu, Nathan Jung, Tone Loc.

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