Though there aren't any name actors in the chopsocky comedy and the plot is thin and formulaic, the gracefully choreographed spectacle of three little boys outfighting hordes of evil adult ninjas is a surefire juvenile crowd-pleaser.

Touchstone Pictures may have a sleeper on its hands in “3 Ninjas,” judging from the surprisingly strong reaction to Saturday’s national previews. Though there aren’t any name actors in the chopsocky comedy and the plot is thin and formulaic, the gracefully choreographed spectacle of three little boys outfighting hordes of evil adult ninjas is a surefire juvenile crowd-pleaser.

Borrowing liberally from “The Karate Kid” and “Home Alone,” the filmmakers tap knowingly into kids’ fantasies by showing little guys Michael Treanor, Max Elliott Slade and Chad Power hurling baddies through the air and flattening the massive, seemingly invincible Toru Tanaka.

Director Jon Turtletaub and editor David Rennie keep things zipping along, wisely not wasting much time with the ninjas’ arms dealer boss, sneering Steven Seagal clone Rand Kingsley, or with his antagonist, the boys’ blandly inattentive FBI agent father (Alan McRae).

When taken hostage, the Southern California boys have to rely on the martial arts lessons learned from their grandfather (the charming Victor Wong), who has shadowy past connections with Kingsley but takes their side in the battle royal.

While some parents in the audience may become temporarily queasy with grandpa training the boys to disable an attacker by going for the groin and the jugular, the fight scenes are innocuously cartoonlike in this slickly produced first pic from South Korean filmmaker Sang Okk Sheen’s Global Venture Hollywood.

Accompanying “3 Ninjas” is an enjoyably wacky animated short produced and directed by David Block for Walt Disney Television Animation, “Petal to the Metal,” about a bobcat named Bonkers who’s frantically trying to deliver some flowers to a movie queen.

3 Ninjas

(Children's chopsocky comedy--Color)

Production

A Buena Vista release of a Touchstone Pictures presentation of a Global Venture Hollywood production. Produced by Martha Chang. Line producer, Susan Stremple. Co-producers, Hiroshi Kusu, Akio Shimizu. Executive producer, Shunji Hirano. Co-exec producer, James Kang. Directed by Jon Turtletaub. Screenplay, Edward Emanuel, from a story by Kenny Kim.

Crew

Camera (Technicolor prints), Richard Michalak; additional camera, Chris Faloona; editor, David Rennie; music, Rick Marvin; production design, Kirk Petruccelli; art direction, Ken Kirchener, Greg Grande; set decoration, Carol Pressman; costume design, Mona May; sound (Dolby), Bill Robbins, Mark Rozett, David Yamamoto; stunt coordinator, Rick Avery; associate producer, Richard Park; assistant directors, J.B. Rogers, Scott Harris; second unit director, Charlie Kao; casting, Kim Williams. Reviewed at El Capitan Theater, L.A., Aug. 1, 1992. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 84 min.

With

Grandpa - Victor Wong
Rocky - Michael Treanor
Colt - Max Elliott Slade
Tum Tum - Chad Power
Hugo Snyder - Rand Kingsley
Sam Douglas - Alan McRae
Jessica Douglas - Margarita Franco
Rushmore - Toru Tanaka

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