'Surf Ninjas' Hits The Beach With Gags And A Vengeance

Posted: August 23, 1993

Neal Israel's writing credits include the script for the first film in the Police Academy series, which collectively constitute the closest Hollywood has yet come to crimes against humanity. But nothing in Israel's sorry resume quite prepares us for the cresting tidal wave of inanity that crashes upon the helpless viewer in Surf Ninjas.

Israel will one day have to explain to his grandchildren why he thought there was a guffaw-crammed comedy in a fusion of lighthearted martial arts mayhem and teen surfers with elements of an Indiana Jones adventure. He has certainly managed to guarantee that any theater showing Surf Ninjas will be a temple of gloom. What do ninjas and surfers have to do with each other? You've got me, and I heroically sat through all of Surf Ninjas.

Some gullible moviegoers may be lured into seeing the film by the presence of Leslie Nielsen and the hope of something close to his wonderful turns as Lt. Frank Drebin in The Naked Gun pictures. In what amounts to fair warning, we are told to forget that idea when Nielsen, as the villainous Colonel Chi, is kicked in the head by an elephant early in the film. Nielsen can thus plead amnesia if the subject of his participation in Surf Ninjas should ever come up.

He is reduced here to a running and unfunny gag about his malfunctioning answering machine and generally wasted otherwise. Israel, who was demonstrably kicked in the noggin by the same elephant, casts Nielsen as Chi, the new ruler of the island kingdom of Patu San. Chi wishes to dispose of the rightful heirs to the throne. These turn out to be two brothers whose only thought is the next incoming wave at the funky California beach town of Venice.

The one plausible suggestion in Surf Ninjas is that sword-waving ninja assassins in designer black pajamas could somersault around the beach and boardwalk without anyone taking a blind bit of notice. Venice is that kind of place. With various allies, the two dudes sail for Patu San to kick their way back to the top.

On the island, Chi lurks in a fortress where he tortures prisoners ingeniously. Their pain is nothing when measured against what the dialogue inflicts on the audience. Surf Ninjas is beyond airheaded. It bulges with more helium than the Goodyear Blimp. Even by the humble standards of previous screen plunges into the surf, Surf Ninjas will never be called a new wave film. It is strictly an endless bummer.

SURF NINJAS *

Produced by Evzen Kolar, directed by Neal Israel, written by Dan Gordon, photography by Arthur Albert and Victor Hammer, music by David Kitay, distributed by New Line Cinema.

Running time: 1 hour, 27 mins.

Zatch - Ernie Reyes Sr.

Johnny - Ernie Reyes Jr.

Adam - Nicholas Cowan

Colonel Chi - Leslie Nielsen

Iggy - Rob Schneider

Parent's guide: PG (violence)

Showing at: area theaters

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