Now, this is where the movie gets stupid, which, by default, means that all the scenes leading up to this point comprised the intellectual portion of the film. I'll understand if you want to turn away from your computer to weep for a moment. Ready to continue? Then here we go. We find Steve watching the news on the television in his treehouse. The camera flicks back and forth between two shots: first, Steve doing his best to look contemplative, and second, the news broadcast on TV. As we all know, you can't just point a video camera at a television and expect it to come out right on the tape. You get annoying wavy lines. It's the same thing with computer monitors. It has to do with the difference in refresh rates, I think. Most movies try to find a way around this problem. "Pocket Ninjas" gives the worst attempt at fixing it that I've ever seen. Even when you can see the screen between the seizure-inducing flickers, the image isn't exactly what I'd call "pristine." Each time the shot changes, it's like a punch in the stomach. The news report is something about fish being found in the area with some sort of toxic waste poisoning. That might be important later, except it's not. Damien and Tanya each show up at the treehouse in turn, and Steve throws them the rope to get up. There is some delightful sexist antagonism between Steve and Tanya. Tanya finally wins with the cunning line, "I'd slap your brains out, but it's tooooooooo late!" On a completely unrelated note, now would be an excellent time to invest in cyanide capsules. I'm about to send their stock skyrocketing.
The three of them take a look at a manga that Steve found. The cover reads "White Dragon" and features a picture of the white-haired clown of the same name. The comic prompts a discussion that I'm afraid I have to reproduce in full to capture its stupidity.
Tanya: "What're you doing?"
Damien: "Steve found this cool Japanese comic!"
Steve: (Rubbing his chin thoughtfully) "This White Dragon... who is he?"
Damien: "I think he's a superhero."
Tanya: "Maybe it's a girl!"
Steve: "No way! This guy has just kicked twelve gang members' butts. Now he's going to the balloon factory."
Now, maybe you're thinking, "Hey, that's not so bad." Well, allow me to elucidate a couple points. First, as you may recall, all three of these kids were briefed on just who the White Dragon is in the first five minutes of the movie. In fact, Damien even claimed to have heard about him on the news. Second, of course he's a superhero! You don't see many comics about claims adjustors, even in Japan. Third, why is there any confusion about this guy? They all have the same masks that he does! They know exactly what he can do! Fourth, note Steve's last line. Note especially the words "balloon factory." I hate to say it, but that's a segue into a sequence that I believe is supposed to be a live-action representation of what happens in the comic. Of course, then the question is, how is there dialogue, since the comic is in Japanese, which all three kids openly admit they can't read? Unfortunately, that question is not only left unanswered, it is quickly forgotten altogether. The overwhelming stupidity of this scene is so mind-stompingly insane that there's just no time for simple matters of language barriers.
I'm so sorry.
As you read the following paragraph, please bear in mind that I am under no circumstances making any of this up. I don't think I could if I tried. We cut to the balloon factory, which is staffed by circus clowns. And when I say "balloon factory," I mean a warehouse full of balloons that the clowns have to blow up. Their hard work is interrupted when White Dragon bursts through a pathetic breakaway wall, pursued by big bad Cobra Khan. You remember how I said his first appearance was the more dignified of the two? Yeah, this is what I meant. The clowns run out the hole in the wall, as White Dragon and Cobra Khan take turns trying to intimidate each other by making stupid faces and shaking their heads a lot while bad sound files of various animal noises play in the background. It's also worth mentioning that this entire scene takes place over some wretched circus music played, as always, on the synthesizer.
The fight begins in earnest when White Dragon pulls a rope releasing a torrent of balloons down on Cobra Khan. Yep, the guy's wearing a mask that grants him phenomenal physical power, and his brilliant plan is assaulting his archnemesis with a bunch of fucking party balloons. To make matters worse, White Dragon speaks, taunting the crime lord with such witty barbs as "Can't get me," and the ever-threatening, "Neener neener neener." It doesn't help that he sounds like a more nasal version of the vocalist from They MIght Be Giants. They then fight by bouncing up and down on balloons like they're trampolines. Two full grown men. Bouncing on party balloons. In order to fight. I realize this is one of those situations where a textual description just doesn't do it justice, so if you want to get the full effect of what I'm describing, please slam your head against your monitor until you get brain damage. And don't go thinking that there's any real fighting going on, here, either. They go at each other like Moe disciplining Curly, only slower. Finally, their balloons pop and they land on the ground, ready to tear each other apart. And by "tear each other apart," I mean, "play pattycake while the music changes to 'Chopsticks.'" When the limp-wristed girly slapping gets too intense, White Dragon breaks away and launches a new attack on Cobra Khan, which includes sticking two balloons up his shirt to look like lopsided breasts. Once again, I swear that this is all true. I wish to God it wasn't, but I think this movie is pretty good evidence that there is no God. Cobra Khan pulls out a gun and shoots at him, but only manages to pop balloons. At one point, he actually shoots a balloon that's right in front of White Dragon, but the bullet apparently pops the balloon, but does not have enough strength to go out the other side and hit White Dragon in the leg. At last, Cobra Khan just charges at his nimble, incredibly irritating opponent, and ends up getting kicked in the chest, which knocks him out cold. This scene is one of those things in life that you just can't unwatch, no matter how much you want to.
You just want to smack him, don't you? It's okay, you can admit it.
Back in the treehouse, Steve and Tanya continue to bicker, which possesses all the wit of "Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" compared to the last scene. Once again, Mark Williams comes through with spot-on dialogue, including Steve making fun of Tanya for being a vegetarian and Tanya calling him a "fat republican." Just so we're clear, these are kids sitting in a treehouse, arguing over a comic book, calling each other "fat republican." Anyone wishing to form a suicide pact should feel free to send me an email. Damien can't bear to hear all these insults being bandied about among his friends, so he puts a stop to it by interjecting, "Geez! Enough with the weight, guys! Dang! Let's get back to the comic!" It's one of those moments that makes you long for the subtleties of a performance by Carrot Top. Tanya explains her vision of the White Dragon. She guesses that he's a tall, well-built martial artist named Jack Crenshaw.
Now, I'm going to spoil something, here. Their karate instructor is the White Dragon. If that comes as a surprise to you, I hate you and everything you represent. It's pretty obvious, considering he's the one who had the masks, he's a talented martial artists, and, oh yeah, he's the only other character in the movie. But may I also remind you that Master Jack's real name is Jack Crenshaw? Let me put this scene in focus once again. They're looking at a comic about White Dragon, with a picture of him right on the cover. They've seen him on the news, and Master Jack also told them about him. And yet, they're sitting there, debating what he looks like and what happens in the comic, and Tanya just happens to guess that he's someone who looks just like Jack and has exactly the same name. Hell, Tanya's vision of White Dragon is even played by Gary Daniels, who spends the majority of the vision doing Tai Chi with no shirt on. Really, it's just an excuse for another montage. English is failing me. I'm moments away from inventing my own language just to describe the depths of my hatred for this movie.
In case the Tai Chi montage wasn't enough for you, it is immediately followed by two more. First is a minute long series of shots depicting Steve, Damien, and Tanya taking off their roller blades and protective pads at their dojo. No, I don't know why this is in the movie. Next up is another training montage that basically just recycles shots from the first training montage. You know, in case you forgot that they're learning karate.
The movie introduces a subplot about toxic waste. Some greedy businessman goes to Cubby Khan to get him to dump his company's toxic waste into the sewers. At first, Cubby refuses, but then two seconds later he agrees to do it for a price that they had supposedly negotiated earlier. Makes sense to me! To further prove that this movie has a prominent eco-friendly message, there's a follow-up scene with the kids in the treehouse talking about how a nearby beach was closed down because some fish that had been exposed to toxic waste washed up on shore. Tanya claims it's why she became a vegetarian, despite the fact that this problem only emerged in the last few days. Ultimately, though, this subplot doesn't matter in the least. Sure, it's a reason for the kids to try to stop the Stingers, but that's what they were trained to do anyway. Plus, another reason to go after them comes up in a little bit. So this portion of the movie is completely useless. I just thought you might like to know that "Pocket Ninjas" puts the environment first. That's why it popped a few hundred balloons into nice, manageable, pieces just big enough to choke a bird.
You have to wonder just how many henching positions Slag got fired from before he ended up working for Cubby Khan.
The Dragons get their second challenge when the rollerblade in to find the Stingers attempting a daring daylight assault on an old woman and her son using what appear to be brightly colored foam bats. Luckily, the Dragons have some brightly colored foam bats of their own, I guess. This fight scene is possibly the least organized in the movie. In one shot, both gangs are on their feet, in the next, the Stingers are in various positions on the ground and slumped against walls, with no action in between. Amazingly, the sound of someone being hit with a foam bit is exactly the same as someone being punched, which is exactly the same as someone hitting a punching bag in a previous scene. Way to go, sound editors.
The cops show up, which chases off both gangs. The Stingers return to Cubby Khan and tell him that they know where the Dragons train. They ask to burn the dojo down, but Cubby refuses, saying that they must exploit the Dragon's weakest point instead. I don't know, I think burning down their dojo would be a pretty good start. The Dragons return to Master Jack, who is shocked to see them bearing a few bruises. He insists that they give their masks back and stop fighting crime before they get hurt. Let's take another look at that logic, shall we? Jack trained them in karate, then gave them masks that would increase their fighting power specifically so they could go out and beat up the Stingers, and now he wants to take their masks away because they went out and fought the Stingers. There's a flaw in there somewhere, and I swear, someday I'll find it! You just wait and see! They finally convince Jack to let them keep fighting crime, but only on the condition that they show up extra early the next day for a training montage. What he doesn't know is that the Stingers are planning to have a training montage first! Between the two groups, it's a grand total of over three minutes of solid montage, with roughly forty seconds of previously unseen footage, including Cubby Khan's henchman somehow managing to make the nunchaku look about as dangerous as a daisy chain, but not quite as cool. Jack finally reveals to his students that he is White Dragon, which comes as a shock to them because they're severely, severely retarded.
It is 2016. I think it is high time that Captain America have a dog man as a boyfriend.
A brave pop culture addict puts his foot down once and for all.
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