The 3 Ninjas series is about three improbable ninjas who are not actual ninjas. The original 3 Ninjas is an 1992 martial arts comedy, directed by Jon Turteltaub. It features Mori Tanaka (Victor Wong), a Japanese grandfather who teaches his American grandsons martial arts.
Said grandsons are promptly introduced and receive proper codenames. Samuel Douglas Jr. (Michael Treanor), is physically strong, tough, and remains strong and cool under pressure. His codename is "Rocky". Jeffrey Douglas (Max Elliott Slade) is fast and free, "with the spirit of a young wild horse", receiving the codename of "Colt". Michael Douglas (Chad Power) is a Big Eater. His codename is "Tum Tum". The trio must help their grandfather against a rogue student of his, who has turned career criminal: the dangerous Hugo Snyder (Rand Kingsley).
The film continues with the boys facing Snyder and his agents, having a rivalry with some school bullies, along with some scenes establishing Rocky's relationship with his first love interest Emily (Kate Sargeant). This results in her being kidnapped by the villains and the trio having to save her.
Not that original perhaps but it was a modest box office hit, by the way, earning $29,000,301 in the United States market.
The film was lucrative enough to receive sequels. Two were produced almost immediately. However, they were curiously released in reverse order. What is to be the intended third film was released second, the second film was released third, causing some internal logic problems.
The second film to be released was 3 Ninjas Kick Back (1994). Grandpa Mori plans to visit Japan to return a dagger he has held for 50 years, apparently to serve as a prize in a martial arts tournament. He takes his grandsons with him for what he hopes to be a bonding experience. The boys have grown up somewhat and their different interests have made them drift apart. Rocky is having trouble concentrating on anything other than cute girls, his latest crush being Lisa Di Marino (Maital Sabban). Colt has developed a Hair-Trigger Temper and can be counted to pick up fights left and right. Tum-Tum has become even more obsessed with food. They barely have anything in common anymore. When they discover some one has sent thugs to retrieve the knife and that their grandfather has had a very suspicious accident, they travel to Japan on their own to investigate. There they team-up with a female martial artist, Miyo (Caroline Junko King). She might be young but is even better-trained than them. She even agrees to give them some lessons, in exchange for them tutoring her in baseball. Naturally, amorous Rocky has forgotten all about Lisa, shifting his attention to Miyo. The film was not as financially successful as its predecessor, and critics dismissed the film. However, it earned $11,798,854 in the United States market, the 104th most successful film of its year. It did very well in the VHS market, particularly among younger viewers.
The third film is 3 Ninjas Knuckle Up (1995). This time Colt gets a love interest in Jo (Crystle Lightning), a Native American girl whose village comes under threat of becoming a toxic waste dump, due to a Corrupt Corporate Executive. Continuing the decline of the series' commercial value, the third film earned just $413,479 at the box office.
A fourth film was released, featuring a new cast of actors in the roles of the Douglas Brothers. 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain (1998). The film starts with the trio failing at a training exercise. Rocky and Colt grew disillusioned with the regimen. thinking they are too old for it. Rocky would rather spend time with his current girlfriend Jennifer (Lindsay Felton)than spending time with grandpa. Soon, the trio team-up with their new friend, computer nerd Amanda Morgan-Greene (Chelsea Earlywine) in order to diffuse a difficult situation. Retiring action hero Dave Dragon (Hulk Hogan) becomes the hostage of a group of kidnappers, led by mastermind Medusa (Loni Anderson), along with any other people placed in danger due to her plans. By the end of the film the victorious trio are back to training, with a new appreciation for it, with Amanda joining them as the fourth ninja of the group. The fourth film was a massive flop, earning only $375,805 at the box office.
- Action Girl: Miyo
- Adults Are Useless: Averted. The kids would most likely have been shot otherwise.
- Attack Its Weak Point: "The eyes, boys! Light up the eyes!"
- Badass Family
- Big Eater: Guess how Tum Tum got his name...
- Big No: Rocky gets one in the final battle between Snyder and Grandpa, in slow motion no less.
- Big "Shut Up!": When the boys overreact to a practice dummy.
- Bilingual Bonus: In Kick Back.
- Bring My Brown Pants: subverted in that the person in question actually makes it to the bathroom.
- Broken Record: Rocky loves Emily! Rocky loves Emily! Rocky loves Emily!
- Catch Phrase: "We Should Run!" "We Should Hide!" "We Should Kick Their Butts!"; "Let's murderlize 'em!"
- Conservation of Ninjutsu
- Description Cut:
Marcus: We should save some of this (pizza) for the kids were napping.
Fester: They're probably pretty nice kids.
Colt: Where are all the weapons?! The slingshots, the knifethrowers?!
- Die Hard on an X: In High Noon at Mega Mountain.
- Damsel in Distress: Emily in the first film, Jennifer in the fourth film.
- The Dragon/Giant Mook: Rushmore in the first movie.
- The Family for the Whole Family
- Follow the Leader: One of the handful of "It's like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles but with our target audience as the ninjas!" movies from the nineties. This one's an extremely obvious follower since it fairly blatantly defines "ninja" as "heroic do-gooder", due to the TMNT association.
- Franchise Killer: High Noon on Mega Mountain. The paltry box office gross and the universal hatred of this film among critics and fans alike pretty much killed any hopes of a sequel or a reboot of the franchise.
- Funny Foreigner: Miyo.
- Groin Attack: Twice in the first film. First on Fester, lastly on Rushmore.
- Girl of the Week: Er, Girl Of the Movie. Rocky seems to be quite the player.
- Hollywood Genetics: Surprisingly averted. While it's clear they're trying to justify white-washing, it is entirely possible for the Douglas brothers to be white. The more an ethnic group reproduces outside of its own, the more the common genetic traits of that ethnic group are diluted. The grandfather married a white woman, making the boys' mother half-Asian, and the mother married a white man, making the boys only a quarter Asian. With so little Asian blood left, they are more likely to resemble their Caucasian father; the only ethnic trait dominant enough to survive is the characteristic tilt to the eyes (which they do not have).
- Improvised Weapon: "Everything around us can be our friend. Be friendly to our an environment. That is the ninja way." About a minute later, Rocky takes out a mook with a telephone.
- Injun Country: In Knuckle Up.
- Kevlard: Rushmore in the first movie. Until the heroes figured out where his weak point was, their blows simply did not register.
- Kid Hero meets Kung Fu Kid: 3 of 'em.
- Knight, Knave, and Squire: Rocky, Colt and Tum Tum
- If You Know What I Mean: In Kick Back, Miyo is skilled in ninjitsu but wants to learn how to be better at baseball. Her speech pattern has her jumble the words "bat" and "butt". She wants to "kick bat" and "Swing my butt!"
- Little Miss Badass: Miyo manages to defeat multiple opponents with relative ease.
- Match Cut: The brothers' parents talking while driving back home. The mother tells her husband that the boys love their grandpa and the ninja teachings. The father worries that "someone could get hurt". Then we cut to Emily entering inside the house where the three surfer dudes are about to ambush her.
- Mooks: both the ninjas and the incompetent kidnappers.
- The Nineties
- Old Master: Grandpa.
- The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The three goons insistently refers to themselves as "kidnappers", not "robbers". However, they haven't actually kidnapped them.
Colt: Oh no! Robbers!
Fester: Robbers? I thought we were kidnappers.
Marcus: We are.
- Punch-Punch-Punch Uh-Oh: The kids' "beating up grown mercenaries" mojo isn't so effective against Rushmore.
- At the film's climax, they get around it with Mori's help in the "Light up the eyes!" scene.
- Quirky Miniboss Squad: Those surfer dudes.
- Sibling Team
- Totally Radical: "Cake"
- I always thought it was just a shortening of "Piece of Cake."
- Weaksauce Weakness: Grandpa gains the upper hand in his fight with Snyder by stuffing jellybeans in his mouth. Yep.
- X Meets Y: The movie has the martial arts of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the Slapstick antics of Home Alone. It was even ADVERTISED this way.
- Yes-Man: Tum Tum to Colt.
- They had practiced with a training dummy whose eyes light up when you hit vulnerable spots