Sunday, March 6, 2011

Beverly Hills Ninja

When I was a little kid, every movie I saw was the greatest movie ever. Whether through my own naivety or skilled marketing on the part of advertisers, I accepted and loved anything on screen. I can't say it led to my development of a more critical eye, but when I first saw Beverly Hills Ninja (1997), I knew even then it sucked. A while ago back, I said my friends and I need to pick better movies to watch on Saturday night. Last week, we watched Ravenous, but I already reviewed that. We watched this lame Chris Farley vehicle a month ago, and I'm still annoyed.

After being washed ashore in Japan as a baby, Haru (Farley) has been raised as a ninja at a dojo where it's believed he will be the great white ninja of prophecy. Haru, however, is fat, stupid, and clumsy (surprise, surprise) and nowhere near the ninja of his brother Gobei (Robin Shou). When a mysterious woman (Nicollette Sheridan) arrives looking for help, Haru goes to Beverly Hills and becomes embroiled in a plot involving gangsters, counterfeiters, and murderers while adapting to this strange new culture.

This is bad. It is lazy comedy at its worst. Every scene consists of Farley trying to be heroic, bumping into something, and falling down. That's kind of amusing the first time and in short bits on Saturday Night Live, but it wears thin quickly. Lets go down the list. Does he rip his clothes? Check. Bump into someone? Check. Get hit in the face? Check. Babble incoherently? Check.

The plot makes no sense, like it mattered. You'd think a clan of elite ninjas would not raise such an inept student before tossing him out. Plus, why would they keep this baby? If this were a period film, that might be plausible, but they live in modern Japan. I guess there are no orphanages. There's that prophecy, but at what point were they going to wring their hands and say they messed up? I know plot is not relatively important in a slapstick movie, but there needs to be some sort of internal logic. Otherwise, there's no reason to care; it's a guy acting like an idiot.

The worst is the false sentimentality added to make me feel sympathetic toward Haru (he loves his brother, wants to make him proud, and he's doing his best). I can't feel sorry for anyone this stupid. It's also hypocritical of the filmmakers to build their entire movie around the oafishness and ineptitude of its main character and then demand sentiment for him.

Maybe the movie would have been funny if Haru was competent. To see a fat guy do ninja stuff probably would have worn thin too, but it would have had more mileage than the fat oaf who screws everything up. Farley had already played that role so many times, it was old before the first frame was filmed.

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