Surf Ninjas (1993)
Surf's up! Time to save the world!
With leaves falling in waves, I figured we'd capitalize on it by showing a surf movie! If anyone saw that coming, you best consider yourself psychic and start going after some lottery tickets or something, cause you've got a gift. A gift, much like our titular Surf Ninjas! As always, feeling obligated to leave a cliffhanger to further draw you in to the opinion piece, I'll throw in a pun here so I can (largely) spare you them later. Is this reel most excellent, or will it be all washed up?
Our plot focuses primarily on three young boys - of the three, only two are important enough to be considered main characters, although the third certainly makes sure their presence is felt the entire movie. Two brothers are too busy enjoying catching some waves to really focus on things like school, and we watch them shred some waves in our opening title montage. Back at home their father asks about their homework, to which they skirt around it slyly until their friend ends up causing a distraction in the kitchen, and the three of them end up loading up into the jeep and buggering off to school. When they get there, it dawns on the eldest of the mains that he's forgotten about more than just homework, as he's supposed to introduce some big-name that has shown up on the day. He pulls a quick one over by working up some other classmates into a fun take of song and dance instead.
Things in their life are about to get much more interesting than either bargained for however. Throughout their morning, a mysterious one-eyed man has been fending off camouflage wearing ninjas unbeknownst to them, saving their lives at least twice before school even lets out. He shows up to their fathers food stand when they are all there, just in time to engage in some kung fu against a force of ninjas after the boys. The father eventually grabs a stool and tells them all to run while he decides to hold the ninja menace off, and the boys unwillingly comply when all but dragged out by the one-eyed man. After getting them a safe distance away, he returns to the stand to find the father gone - presumably captured - and the boys aren't far behind him.
It's at this point we get a semi-lengthy exposition dump of our backstory - to which the boys even give an audience-like groan as the story continues to go on after they think it's finished. As they knew already, the boys were adopted by their father, but what they didn't know was that they in fact were the sons of a King, and an evil foreigner invaded during a celebration. The invader happens to be the one who gave the one eyed man his current eye-patch issue, and in order to protect the boys so they can hold up the prophecy, he has the one-eyed man get away form the island with the boys, whom he gives to their adopter (their current father). The boys really don't much care about any old prophecy, but after the ninjas attack again at their house, resulting in an explosion that destroys their house, the find they really don't have much of a choice if they want to save their dad and return to normal.
This plot is something we used to see a lot of - kids and fulfilling prophecies. If it popped up nowadays, it wouldn't be anything new - and to some extent, it was nothing new when it came out either. The typical storyline flows right through the middle of it, and at times can feel quite forced in its "the prophecy!" and "just because" mentality that often comes from such a thing. Thankfully enough, despite the plot itself and a lot of the weirdness there-in (specifically around the "future-seeing Game Gear") the movie still has a nice flow to it, thanks to the spacing of action scenes, comedy gags, and only one sizeable information dump.
Of all the music you'll find in this movie, there's an interesting bit of curiosity that manages to slip by. With a title that explicitly calls out Surf, and indeed screen time does feature a hand-full of surf scenes, you'd expect there to be more surf-rock than actually makes an appearance. Indeed, the most memorable and practically only song of the genre to show up is in fact the Beach Boys' Barbara Ann. The rest is a mix of what you'd normally expect in a movie, with some more high-octane rock to get you pumped for those montages and action scenes. Audio levels are pretty good - you'll hear all the glorious martial arts yelling just fine without needing to change the volume during normal conversations.
The acting is decent enough, and the kids pull off a good enough performance that the movie is still enjoyable enough to watch. The "annoying sidekick" character manages to be annoying enough that you know who it is, but at the same time still manages to be funny at some points. The humor actually managed to catch me off guard a few times - a string of jokes related to knives eventually wearing me down, and a visual binocular gag for the patch-wearing character surprising me as well. Mileage will certainly vary, and it certainly sort of dates itself with some of the effect shots - largely that some mat paintings stick out way more than others. As it picks up towards the end, the fight choreography gets pretty fun as well, and overall it's not terrible in that old campy Power Rangers sort of way.
Surf Ninjas is a fun little movie that doesn't overstay it's welcome. It doesn't feel long thanks to a good pacing (even though at under an hour and a half it's not that long anyways) the balances action and jokes on its relatively plain plot line. Actors do a fine job, and the action contains just that bit of cheese you'd want out of old martial arts movies. The jokes and some of the effects can be a bit dated, but you'll find yourself surprised at some of the gags and how stupid they can be.