Originally meant to be a sequel to Beverly Hills Ninja, this martial arts comedy is meant to be one of those not be taken seriously all thanks to one heck of a campy performance by “The Hoff”.
Years ago, a baby was found on the harbor by Papasan, a local business owner who works as both a restaurateur and video star with his wife Mamasan. The boy, who would grow up to be Ikki, serves as delivery boy for his father’s place and tries his best to study hard at martial arts at the school run by Sabu. However, his lack of coordination has made him the laughing stock of Sabu’s school. When Ikki discovers a dancing game outside of his regular customers, he begins to work on his coordination through dancing and being able to help him improve as a martial artist.
Sabu soon comes across a possible revelation, one that he refuses to believe. Ikki may be destined to be a legendary hero known as the Dancing Ninja. When Ansel LaDouche, Sabu’s former student and washed up action star, kills Sabu and steals sacred scrolls from the school, Ikki decides to get revenge for his master. The journey takes Ikki to Los Angeles, where he finds another student of Sabu’s, Kimi, joining him on his quest. Will Ikki find his true destiny as the legendary Dancing Ninja and avenge his master?
When it comes to martial arts comedies, there are some just not meant to be taken seriously. When 1997’s Beverly Hills Ninja was released, the late Chris Farley’s physical style of comedy was the highlight of the film as the hero Haru. When it was announced a proposed thematic sequel would be in the works, it would involve dancing and martial arts. The end result is a fun film in which our hero isn’t so much the highlight as much as the villain is hilarious to watch.
However, don’t take away Lucas Grabeel in the role of the titular character, who is named Ikki. Grabeel certainly has the moves due to his dancing and theatrical background. After his run as Ryan in the High School Musical trilogy, what better way than to distance himself from Disney by doing a martial arts comedy that has some adult overtones, especially when it comes to his eventual romance with fellow student Kimi, played by Judy Kang-Hwa Kang. The two have some fun chemistry together that gracefully takes its time to develop and when they “dance fight” together, it is enjoyable to watch.
The piece de resistance is the very hammy and campy performance of David Hasselhoff as the film’s lead villain, Ansel LaDouche, a washed up action star who sees himself seeing redemption by killing his former master and gaining powers, which in turn, allow him to take over a proposed 24-hour fight channel. When LaDouche learns of the Dancing Ninja, he sees this as the biggest threat of his life and this leads to Hasselhoff bringing his funniest overacting performance. Even with his partner Crystal, played by Bree Turner, Hasselhoff’s hysterics are truly a reason to see this film.
The action/dance sequences are enjoyable to watch. Yes, they are meant to be ridiculous at times and even brings a level similar to something you would see in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Yet as mentioned, it does help that the title fits star Grabeel, who is able to move with the help of stunt coordinator Jeffrey Ong and HSM co-choreographer Charlie Klapow, who collaborated on the “dance fight” sequels. The only disappointing thing with this film though is that one would have loved to have seen Grabeel against Hasselhoff in perhaps a fight against each other, but sadly, that doesn’t happen. Instead, it ends in a more clichéd general way that just becomes a bit predictable.
Dancing Ninja is fun, in a hammy, campy kind of way. However, don’t discredit Lucas Grabeel doing what he can do in terms of physicality and The Hoff in one of his funniest goofball performances.
WFG RATING: B-
A GV Entertainment/CJ Entertainment production in association with ATM Motionwide. Directors: Kelly Sandefur and Mitchell Klebanoff. Producers: John Jungho Han, Sean Sangyong Lee, Deboragh B. Gabler, Danielle Na, Jay Choi, Marc Hyun Kim. Writer: Mitchell Klebanoff. Cinematography: Robert Brinkman and Robert C. New. Editing: Charles Robichaud and Sandy S. Solowitz.
Cast: Lucas Grabeel, Judy Jung-Hwa Kang, David Hasselhoff, Bree Turner, Gary Hudson, Patrick Gallagher, Terryn Westbrook, Li Tien, Eric Tsang, James Tsai, Anthony Shim, Elise Estrada, Drew Scott.