ByBenjamin Marlatt, writer at

The evil Cobra Khan has risen up from the underworld to begin polluting the environment. His rival, the White Dragon (Gary Daniels) tries to stop him but is injured in the process. In an effort to still prevent Khan and his gang from “destroying the universe”, the White Dragon looks to his three karate pupils – Steve (Brad Bufanda), Tanya (Sondi) and Damien (Joseph Valencia) – to take his place in bringing down Cobra Khan.

If you thought 3 Ninjas and its three sequels were bad, then wait ’til you see Pocket Ninjas.

It’s not so much the fact that for a film made in the mid-’90s it looks like it was shot back in ’72, or the fact that the entire cast looks so confused as to what acting actually is, it’s the equivalent of having your 10-month-old baby skip learning to walk so you can teach them how to ride a unicycle that makes this film so bad. What makes Pocket Ninjas such a mess is that it is put together so incoherently I couldn’t honestly tell you what the hell is going on.

Sit Sherlock Holmes, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Aristotle, Nicolaus Copernicus (provided he and Kepler are sitting on the other side of the room from Ptolemy, so not to break out into a fist fight with each other), Sigmund Freud and that one crooked guy with the sweet Hoveround in a room together, have them watch this movie and figure out what’s going on, and they’ll all give you the exact same answer…

“Beats the shit out of me.”

So Pocket Ninjas opens up with a Sandlot ripoff narration (Bertram’s nowhere to be found in this film either, but that’s ’cause he got really into the ’60s… and no one ever saw him again). We don’t know who exactly out of the three kids is doing the narrating, but they go on to tell us that we always remember those unforgettable moments in our life such as a first kiss, first love and “the first time you save the universe”.

Yes, that’s right. Saving the universe, which here boils down to a few local muggings.

Sounds like just another casual day in L.A. if you ask me.

Well, since a few establishments on the town block, aka “the universe”, is in trouble, the White Dragon looks to his three martial arts students to save the day, even though they seem to just wanna bicker and fight all the time by calling each other vegetarians and fat Republicans.

Yes, I remember those days fondly back in first grade and on the playground. Neil Hawkins called me a free trade, laissez-faire, Jeffersonian pig. I responded by calling him a Federalist, Alexander Hamilton ass-kissing douche-turd whose constant wet dreams of a centralized national banking system and the Jay Treaty would bring about a crippling effect on the nation that would slowly deteriorate the very foundation this free country was founded upon.

We were quite eloquent for being just six.

Okay, maybe not, but at least more eloquent than this…

Steve: “Let’s make like a tree and run!”


Anyway, the White Dragon bestows upon his three students his powers and gives them masks that make them look like midget versions of a cheap slasher villain. Damien, Tanya and Steve are all shocked that it’s them their dojo master has picked, even though they’re THE ONLY THREE STUDENTS THAT HE HAS. Tanya even has to look around the place as if there’s someone else, and it somehow takes her forever to deduce that she and her two friends are, in fact, the only ones in the room.

You have to wonder just how astronomically high Master Crenshaw’s lesson fees are if he’s able to run a karate studio with just three kids.

So what about the villains? They must be terrifying if Crenshaw is so desperate for help he’s willing to put the fate of the street – err, I mean universe – in the hands of three inexperienced middle schoolers. Well, the good news is if you find three thugs that look like the worst offense they’ve ever committed was selling a bag of weed outside a Circle K, a middle-aged businessman and a whiny kid – yes, I repeat, a whiny kid – whose current conflict is finding a way to flip through a JCPenney women’s catalog without getting an erection, to be terrifying, Pocket Ninjas will scare the shit out of you.

But wait! As Yoda would say, there is another, and his name is Cobra Khan. This man must be as intimidating as everyone in the film seems to think he is, considering they keep mentioning him over and over again (much like the army of ninjas in last week’s review of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation). Wait… Here he finally comes, out from the shadows… Wait for it… Wait for it. Well, look at that. It’s the pudgy, buffoonish henchman from Samurai Cop. Yes, Robert Z’Dar was kind enough to show up for two scenes that explain absolutely nothing about his character or why he’s as feared as he is.

But he gets to play Patty Cake with one of his fighting opponents, so hooray for us.

I kinda have a feeling that Z’Dar, thinking he was the hotshot star of the show, treated everyone on set as if he was doing the film a favor by gracing it with his presence. You know, like spitting his drink back in the caterer’s face if they, God forbid, mistook his white whine spritzer for a peartini. But after witnessing the so bizarrely awful it needs to be seen fight sequence he shares with the White Dragon (which is apparently a live action representation of something the three kids are reading in a comic book… or just hallucinating), Z’Dar should realize that even an A – err, I mean B – well, who are we kidding – Z-level actor like him doesn’t come away unscathed.

I’m sure he reminded the entire cast and crew time and time again that he was “Face” in Tango & Cash, which therefore meant he knew what he was doing more than them, to which even the nobodies he was surrounded by laughed back in derision over the high point of his career being one of the lowest of Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell’s.

Overall, nothing makes any sense in this mess (one strange moment in the film actually had me questioning if it was a series of random deleted scenes that were meant to be cut, but accidentally got left in). This is pretty much a 30-minute episode that’s padded out into a 90-minute feature-length film thanks to the repeated use of training montages that all look like a lethargic version of a Billy Blanks workout performed by a group of strung out heroin addicts. You get the point by the third one that appears, but that’s not stopping the filmmakers from giving us another one every other scene. It wouldn’t surprise me if Mark Williams’s script (which received contributions from three other writers) was just a few ideas jotted down on a post-it note that director Dave Eddy handed out to the cast and then told them all to figure it out. That would definitely explain the utterly bewildered looks on the faces of everyone that appears onscreen.

“Wait… we’re supposed to say something now… What are lines? We didn’t get any of those in the script… Oh shit…”

Of course, when your film mostly consists of unsuspecting people you cornered at a local Walgreens and held hostage throughout the entire production of the film, I guess you get what you pay for.

* Using Martial Arts for Dummies as your stunt choreographer: $14.

* Robert Z’Dar as your big get: whoever was willing to pay for his lunch.

* A script penned by Mark Williams: $6 for the kids dino-shaped sketch pad / $8 for the Crayola colored pencils.

* Somehow talking your casting director into letting you take as many cleavage and butt shots of her as her pointless character is lured by the villains with a fishing reel baited with money, coupons and a topless photo of Master Crenshaw… Priceless.

There are some things money can’t buy… For everything else, there’s MasterCard.

Pocket Ninjas takes bafflingly inept filmmaking to heights so impossibly high Tommy Wiseau’s The Room actually begins to make more and more sense. It’s not so much the bad acting and horrible dialogue here; many films commit those sins. What makes this film a colossal disaster is that director Dave Eddy can’t even piece together at least two cohesive shots to what is, on paper, a fairly simple plot. It’s all a jumbled up mess that leads to a final conflict that is not only not resolved, but kinda left hanging as if Eddy and writer Mark Williams forgot that stories typically come with an ending.

Oh, well… Cue another training montage!

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