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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
3 Ninjas Knuckle Up (1995)

Tum-Tum: What's this? Mercedes Benz?
Colt: It means peace, pizza-brains.
Tum-Tum: Peas? I hate peas!

- Chad Power, Max Elliot Slade

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: August 07, 2001

Stars: Max Elliott Slade, Chad Power, Michael Treanor
Other Stars: Victor Wong, Charles Napier, Vincent Schiavelli
Director: Simon S. Sheen

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for non-stop ninja action
Run Time: 01h:27m:38s
Release Date: August 07, 2001
UPC: 043396059849
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ C+B+B+ D

DVD Review

In the early 1990s, the coolest things for kids were ninjas. I should know, I was just hitting my peak pre-adolescent hyperactive stage, and it was all I could do to keep myself from running around kicking everything and everyone. No doubt sensing the trend in the air (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, anyone?), Buena-Vista released the surprise box-office hit 3 Ninjas in 1991 (a film I saw and enjoyed, at the time). A sequel, entitled 3 Ninjas Knuckle Up, was quickly completed to be distributed by TriStar Pictures. However, for whatever reason, this 1992 film didn't see the light of day until 1995, when it made its auspicious debut on video. By that time, I was too old for kid's films, so, in the interest of ravaging my childhood memories, I have revisited this landmark series.

Our titular three ninjas, Rocky (Treanor), Colt (Slade), and Tum-Tum (Power), are on vacation at their Grandfather's (Wong). They come across a group of Native Americans protesting the operation of a landfill, which they believe is killing the land and their people. A young girl, Jo, follows the company henchmen, whom she believes have kidnapped her father. When the men assault her, the ninjas come to her aid and are drawn into the case. It's up to them (why? Because these 10 year olds are fighting machines!) to save Jo's father and the town from the evils of environmental cruelty and a town conspiracy that reaches to the highest level (that level being the hick mayor, played by character actor Vincent Schiavelli).

The script, acting, and direction are about on par with most children's films. The plot is clichÈ, with a loose storyline, bad dialogue, and way too many fight scenes, along with the requisite leaps in logic required of such a story (why do the kids have to solve the kidnapping, instead of, say, the FBI?). As you can imagine, the treatment of the Native Americans is quite stereotypical. They wear handmade clothes and do war dances, ect. Oddly enough, they also bury their dead in Catholic ceremonies. Hmm... The three leads tend to deliver lines unnaturally (sometimes as if they are reading them off of cue cards), but they bring a sense of enthusiasm to their work (and why not? They get to be NINJAS!). The direction from Simon Sheen is over-the-top, with an emphasis on outlandish stunts and sequences. He isn't too good at hiding the stunt doubles, but he does keep the pace moving, even if many of the fight sequences do run long.

Oddly enough, however, is the film's rating, a quite surprising PG-13. Perhaps it was this box-office kiss of death that kept the film from release (13-year-olds would balk at the notion of seeing such kiddie fare!). I do find the rating to have some merit. This is an intense film, far more so than the others in the series. Normally, the kids are involved in a more pedestrian plot; something that kids could actually conceivably take part in. The villains are usually children as well, and at no time are our heroes in any real danger. Here, however, the baddies are grown men. In one disturbing scene, the three heavies push a small girl down and slap her repeatedly, while the townspeople simply watch. I also find it odd that the response from the average security guard would be, "Kids! Let's hit them with baseball bats!". Most ridiculous was the climax to a chase, where a man actually attempts to burn the three heroes alive. It's all played for laughs of course ("Weee! We escaped!"), but still, I can imagine some trauma resulting from these scenes if viewed by younger children.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: The image on this disc looks very strong. Colors are solid (if a bit dull), with little visible film grain, even in darker scenes. The black level is fairly good, and I noticed no obvious edge-enhancement. Artifacting wasn't a problem either. The print used for the transfer was in good condition, with little in the way of scratches or lines.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Spanish, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: This is a fairly standard 2.0 track. The mix is very front heavy, with dialogue anchored in the center. Dialogue is always clear, though there are a few instances of apparent ADR. The score fills out the surrounds a bit, but it sounds rather unsupported and overdone at times. The action scenes never move much outside of the front mains, but front soundstage is fairly wide anyway.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Thai with remote access
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Buddy, Beverly Hills Ninja, Jumanji, The Karate Kid, Roughnecks: Starship Troopers
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Nothing is offered save a trailer gallery featuring Buddy, Beverly Hills Ninja, Jumanji, The Karate Kid, and Roughnecks: Starship Troopers. The trailer for 3 Ninjas Knuckle Up is not present.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Though it is awfully violent and rather intense, 3 Ninjas Knuckle Up should be fairly harmless viewing for children over 10. Though the DVD is barebones, Columbia TriStar has delivered where it counts, in the video and audio areas.


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