A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Three Ninjas: Kick Back is a 1994 movie that is part of the Three Ninjas series. There is martial arts-style violence throughout, as well as slapstick Home Alone-style pratfalls and violence. The humor is very childish: During a Little League game, an overweight boy who eats a lot passes gas that makes all the other players, coaches, and umpires faint. There also is some bullying and name-calling during the baseball games. Characters laugh at an Asian girl who is learning English who confuses the word "bat" for "butt." Also of concern is how girls are regarded in terms of playing sports or participating in martial arts; the three lead boy characters are flabbergasted that a girl would even try to participate in any of these activities. Overall, these sexist attitudes date this movie more than the haircuts and clothing.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Rocky (Sean Fox), Colt (Max Elliott Slade), and Tum-Tum are three brothers who are getting better at martial arts but not improving at baseball; their team is getting continually trounced by their archrivals. While this is happening, their grandfather and martial arts trainer (Victor Wong) has gone to Japan to track down a sword stolen from the Japanese Museum of History. While being pursued by three clumsy and bumbling thieves, the kids go to Japan to help their grandfather, where their ninja skills improve thanks to training with a girl whom they didn't think could keep up with the boys. Rocky, Colt, and Tum-Tum must use their skills to help their grandfather against an army of ninjas and somehow make it back to America to win at baseball.
Is it any good?
THREE NINJAS: KICK BACK is a failed attempt to combine a martial arts-action movie with Home Alone-style slapstick. And, over 20 years later, it hasn't aged well; boys acting flabbergasted that a girl could learn martial arts and play baseball is as dated as the haircuts and fashion. The boys go to Japan under the flimsiest of premises, and all the martial arts and slapstick humor thrown in can't overcome the movie's lack of substance.
The childish humor -- fart jokes, for instance, and an Asian girl who is learning to speak English confusing the word "bat" for "butt" -- doesn't help. This is basically an unentertaining mish-mash of what worked and appealed to kids in other movies from the early 1990s. Perhaps the only worthwhile element is that it gives the viewer the chance to appreciate how far we've come in terms of girls being respected and considered as athletes or potential athletes rather than being laughed at.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about sequels. Why do movie studios make sequels? Do they tend to be better or worse than the original movie? Why?
How is violence used in the movie? Is it effective? Necessary?
How have attitudes changed (or not) since this movie was made toward girls playing sports or learning martial arts?
- In theaters: May 6, 1994
- On DVD or streaming: August 7, 2001
- Cast: Victor Wong, Max Elliott Slade, Sean Fox
- Director: Charles T. Kanganis
- Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: Martial arts action and some mild language.
- Last updated: May 5, 2020
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