`Surf Ninjas' A Real Wipeout


X 1/2 "Surf Ninjas," with Ernie Reyes Sr., Ernie Reyes Jr., Rob Schneider, Tone Loc and Leslie Nielsen. Directed by Neal Israel, from a screenplay by Dan Gordon. Alderwood Village 12, Broadway Market, Metro, Renton Village, Gateway Center 8. "PG" - Parental guidance suggested, due to moderate violence. ---------------------------------

It's well understood that a movie like "Surf Ninjas" is catering to a very specific audience - namely, anyone who's into martial arts and/or spends inordinate amounts of time playing Nintendo and Sega video games. It's equally understood that anyone who doesn't fit that demographic wouldn't watch this movie if you paid them, with the possible exception of haggard film reviewers like yours truly, who as your humble servant has sat through "Surf Ninjas" so you won't have to.

It's about a pair of young Asian-American brothers (Ernie Reyes Jr. and Nicolas Cowan) who spend their days surfing near Los Angeles, until a band of marauding Ninja warriors pops up to assassinate them. Like, bummer, dude.

Turns out the brothers are the born princes of Patu San, an idyllic island kingdom that was overthrown by the evil Colonel Chi (Leslie Nielsen) when the boys were too young to remember their father, the Patu Sani king. Adopted by an American seaman and Patu Sani loyalist, they were raised in L.A. and, at first, don't care much for assuming the throne of some distant monarchy.

But it's their destiny, y'see, so they gotta go. Joined by their Ninja master uncle (Ernie Reyes Sr.), an L.A. detective (rapper Tone Loc) and their buffoon buddy Iggy ("Saturday Night Live" regular Rob Schneider), they recruit the oppressed men of Patu San to assault the nasty Colonel's island fortress on surfboards.

Oh, gee, have I given too much away? Is there something in this lyrical narrative that can't be detected in the first five minutes?

Truth be told, "Surf Ninjas" is far from the worst of its kind, with production values that are surprisingly elaborate. Some lavish sets have been built on exotic Thailand locations, and lowbrow director Neal Israel (perpetrator of the early Tom Hanks vehicle "Bachelor Party") manages to keep things lively despite all the flaws. It's also clear that martial-arts masters Reyes Sr. and Jr. are headed for a healthy career of kicking the screen to kingdom come.