Bullet Points: Surf Ninjas
There are a dozens or maybe even hundreds of ways that a ninja could kill you, but did you also know that they can “hang ten” with the best of them? Okay, that was super lame. What isn’t super lame, though, is this early 90’s gem starring two generations of men named Ernie Reyes. It’s a film that deserved a sequel more than most but sadly is the only of its kind. My only hope is that the mere existence of the movie gave many a young ninja the confidence that they too could learn the serene and peaceful ways of surfing.
Synopsis: Two young California brothers, who care of nothing except “catching the next wave”, learn that they’ve been targeted for assassination by an evil and ruthless dictator of an East Asian island that they are the heirs to. Along with their bumbling idiot friend, the older brother’s future wife, Tone Loc, and a loyal bodyguard to their father, they must return to their homeland and save the people from the evil Colonel Chi.
- The Raddest Thing Ever: In the early 1990’s, and heck, maybe still today, one of the coolest things that a person could do was to surf. When a guy or gal surfed on screen it automatically made them out to be some sort of laid-back, carefree, badass. Not just anyone could pick up a board and look cool. No surfing movie is complete without the slow motion surfing montage. These movies alone probably padded the wallets of many a professional surfer looking for money as a stunt double. If only I could get a job as a stunt double who drank a lot of beer and belched loudly and often.
- Lord, thank you for Kelly Hu: Even in her youth Kelly Hu was already playing the hot chick. She’s only supposed to be a teenager in this movie but she was in her early 20’s while filming so I don’t feel weird at all for checking her out the entire movie. Keep your judgements to yourself.
- Moto Surf: I don’t know how these California kids could think that “moto surfing” was cool. Not only are they moving at an incredibly slow pace, but they’re not wearing their seatbelts and I just can’t contribute to such an unsafe practice. The sword fighting and revolution against the evil dictator is a different story, though.
- Lt. Tone Loc: Kudos to the casting director Annette Benson (she also cast Universal Soldier and Sidekicks) for getting the extremely versatile Tone Loc as the cop who didn’t believe the kids but became one of their biggest supporters. He was such a badass that he considered their kidnapping him a vacation from his job.
- Yes, that Rob Schneider: Any reasonable person who watches Surf Ninjas will almost certainly agree with me that Rob Schneider should have been a massive star in the years following his performance here. Sure, he was on SNL and has done a ton of movies, but I’m talking about him being a guy who can headline a movie without Adam Sandler or Napoleon Dynamite and it actually be a good one. I think he’s hilarious in Surf Ninjas. His comedic timing is on point and there is hardly a scene in the entire movie that he doesn’t steal.
- Ernie Reyes for the win: This is the first but not the last time that the father and son combo of Ernie Reyes Sr. and Ernie Reyes Jr. would share the screen together. If I had to choose one ahead of the other I would say that ER Jr. was the most significant character in the film. Of course coming off of his role in the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was most likely what propelled ER Jr. into getting this role but there is no arguing the fact that he had a lot of charisma. I would have liked to have seen Ernie in more movies going forward but twas not to be.
- Uhh, Wait just one second: No one mentions it to young Johnny (ER Jr.) after his big speech at the end of the film but I’m pretty sure that he just murdered Leslie Nielsen. Johnny stands in front of the newly freed people of Patusan and as his first order as new King dissolves the monarchy! He should have at least went ahead and married Kelly Hu!
- Colonel Chi’s Tech Problems: Poor Leslie Nielsen, like many elderly gentlemen, has a real problem dealing with anything in his life that relates to technology. He’s old school. I took the island nation by force, but now the modern day sorcery of technology is threatening to take it away from him. He has plenty of issues with is mechanical hand and don’t even get me started on his answering machine. It was to be expected that a could of hip kids with a SEGA Game Gear would overthrow his reign.
The Verdict: I’m partially saying this because I watched Surf Ninjas dozens of times as a kid and it holds a special place in my heart but I believe that it truly is a fun and entertaining movie. Sure, it’s stupid, but no more stupid than 93% of the movies getting made these days. Plus, you can watch it with you kids. There are so few movies that I can put on and not feel guilty about watching with my son that I will gladly accept that as a major positive for this one. Ernie Reyes Jr. is both likeable and an incredibly talented martial artist. His father also kicks the crap out of quite a few ninjas. The movie feels like it was pulled directly out of a 1990’s time capsule. It has so many of the things that made that time unique but still feel pretty darned cool. This won’t be the last time that I watch Surf Ninjas, and I think that you should check it out too!
I don’t need an excuse to post this picture of Kelly Hu.