“Surf Ninjas” is a juvenile comedy-action movie for audiences too young to get into the R-rated Van Damme pic “Hard Target.” Action is relatively mild for the genre and, unfortunately, so are the jokes.
Two California surfing dudes (Ernie Reyes Jr., Nicolas Cowan) discover they are long-lost crown princes of the obscure nation of Patu San after a royal family retainer (Ernie Reyes Sr.) arrives to inform them of their true identities.
To regain the throne, they must overthrow the dictator (Leslie Nielsen, looking like a cross between a samurai and “Star Trek’s” Borg).
Joining them on their adventure is a spaced-out friend (Rob Schneider), an L.A. cop (rap star Tone Loc) and a prospective bride (Kelly Hu).
While the martial arts choreography by Reyes Sr. is impressive, the film’s intended PG-audience insures it’s pretty tame stuff.
Indeed, given the near-supernatural abilities attributed to most onscreen ninjas, the bad ninjas here seem almost amateurish.
The humor is pretty lame, as well. Instead of going all out for comedy in the manner of “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” director Neal Israel and writer Dan Gordon want us to take the characters seriously enough to care what happens to them. Audiences won’t.
Nielsen’s villain is largely an extended cameo, consisting in part of a mildly amusing running gag about his run-ins with modern phone technology.
Chief drawing card for the younger set is likely to be Reyes Jr., who was a stunt double in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and then got a speaking role in the sequel.
Tech credits are OK. Nothing will be lost when the pic makes its inevitable transition to the small screen.