A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Courage, teamwork, and perseverance are all prominent themes. Helping others. Embracing other cultures with enthusiasm. Eco messaging.
Positive Role Models
The three ninjas, Colt, Rocky, and Tum Tum, are essentially kids who have trained really hard to learn martial arts and accomplish everything they set out to do. They help others and learn from situations. Grandpa is the ninjas' grandfather. He worries about them getting cocky with their skills and disciplines them in the hope they will grow emotionally. Jack Harding is a corrupt businessman who turfs away protesters and wields political power over the town. He is involved in two kidnappings and his illegal toxic waste dumping is responsible for killing the land.
The plot features a businessman's theft and poisoning of Native American land. Native Americans are referred to as "Indians" throughout the movie. The three ninjas attend a Native American ceremony. They take part, dress in traditional dress, and are enthusiastic about how much they are enjoying it. When they are given the esteemed gift of eagle feathers, one says the experience is "better than Christmas!" By speaking to Native American people and listening to their views, the ninjas are enlightened by the experience.
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Violence & Scariness
The movie features many fights, with the three ninjas fighting adults and winning in well-choreographed and often funny fight scenes. Rather than getting seriously hurt, adults run away after losing. Weapons used by adults include a switchblade, baseball bats, and chains. One adult is mean to a young girl, throwing her to the floor. A tied-up adult is slapped by another. Gasoline is poured down a sewer and lit, forcing the three ninjas to jump through a storm drain.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A girl kisses the three ninjas to say thanks.
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Infrequent language includes "buttheads," "butt," "idiot," "moron," "oh God," and "dork."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink beer at a bar and one pours their drink on a child. Mayor smokes a cigar, which is taken off them and told it's bad for their health. While praying, a child says "I'll never do drugs." Kidnappers drink beer and spirits.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that 3 Ninjas: Knuckle Up is a fun martial arts movie in the 3 Ninjas series with fight scenes and some use of weaponry. It is slightly more intense than the film's sequel. The plot involves the three ninjas -- Colt (Max Elliott Slade), Rocky (Michael Treanor), and Tum Tum (Chad Power) -- taking on a corrupt businessman who is dumping toxic waste on Native American land. There is also a kidnapping subplot. The movie has many fights, with the children performing martial arts against adults in well-choreographed and often funny ways. Some adults have weapons, including switchblades and baseball bats. The movie uses the term "Indians" when referring to Native Americans. But other than that, the movie is positive with regards to representation. The ninjas experience a number of Native American customs and ceremonies and are entirely enthusiastic. They also become enlightened by taking the time to listen to a Native American philosophy. Infrequent mild language includes "buttheads" and "dork." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
If you're playing 1990s bingo, prepare for a full house. 3 Ninjas: Knuckle Up offers a splattering of monster trucks, pizzas, arcade machines, green toxic waste, backwards baseball caps, incriminating evidence on floppy discs, sewer tunnel chases, and impromptu martial arts breakdancing. It's also fantastic fun. The three ninjas themselves are charming company and amusingly competent. They face every challenge with the confidence and knowledge that they'll succeed. Take, for example, the set-piece where they need to drive a car: "Rocky, you don't drive!" "I do now!" But these aren't adolescent tearaways. After a brawl in a pizza parlor, the trio go back and clean up -- a feat they manage quickly and easily. As far as role model status goes, these are kids who trained really hard and as a result can do things really well.
The genuinely witty script is given a visual flair to match, thanks to Chinese fight choreographer Wan-chang Lin, whose years working in Hong Kong action cinema gives this movie the same eye-popping treatment. A mix of bone-crunching impact, hilarious pratfalls, inventive jokes, and "whoa!"-inducing stunts, raises the film from a throwaway kids' movie to one worth watching. Filmed in Southern California, the movie's outlook is as bright as its sun-drenched locations. These ninjas embrace learning from cultures other than their own and have a fun time doing it.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.