Exploring the IMDb Bottom 100: “Pocket Ninjas”
Directed by: Dave Eddy
Starring: Rick Rabago, Robert Z’Dar, Joseph Valencia
The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is a great resource for finding classic movies, modern hits and cult classics. This series will ignore all of those movies. “Exploring the IMDb Bottom 100” is exactly what it sounds like: We’ll muck our way through the very worst movies the world has to offer.
In a way, it’s a test of endurance. In another way, it’s self-inflicted torture. So let’s get started.
For the series’s maiden voyage, I’ve decided to review “Pocket Ninjas,” which clocks in at a 1.4 out of 10, horrible enough to be IMDb’s worst movie of all time. Personally, I haven’t seen every movie ever, but I have seen this movie’s DVD cover, where the kids strike menacing poses with their broom, plunger and Simple Green. I’m fairly certain the cover models are not the actors from the movie.
In fact, I don’t know why the movie is called “Pocket Ninjas.” The main characters are not, sadly, pocket-sized. And if I’m supposed to take the title another way, their outfits don’t even have pockets, so that’s another dead end. Plus, for most of the movie, they’re referred to as “dragons.” Red Dragon. Blue Dragon. Yellow Dragon. Led by White Dragon. They are karate masters, and they rollerblade for justice.
The premise seems simple. Three karate students at the Shorin-Ryu Karate Dojo—right between Lee’s Barber Shop and the LIQUOR store—have been trained to defeat the evil Cubby Khan (Rick Rabago), the 10-year-old protégé of the even eviler Cobra Khan (Robert Z’Dar). Two of these three “pocket ninjas,” Damien (Joseph Valencia) and Tanya (played by Sondi. No last name, most likely for the sake of future generations), are probably in love. The third one, little Steve, is played by a young Brad Bufanda. He asks all the tough questions, like why his comic books are written in Canadian. You know, that’s something I’ve always wanted answered, too. Does that make him the comic relief, or the voice of our generation? I can’t say.
But the rest of the movie is beyond comprehension. The plot has something to do with The Stingers, who are these bad guys who hang at immoral places, like convenience stores or abandoned warehouses, and how they’re corrupting the city. They’re led by Cubby Khan, who answers to Cobra Khan, a bad guy who may or may not exist. Or maybe he does, but he probably doesn’t. Except that he might. I think. On top of that, there’s this corrupt CEO who wants to dump his toxic waste in the ocean. For obvious safety reasons, he stores all of his toxic waste in barrels labeled “Poison.”
“Pocket Ninjas” isn’t sure what to make of all these societal problems it throws at the viewers. Pollution, corporate fraud, gang violence, excessive loitering. That’s a full slate, even for a pocket ninja to understand. The poor kids become overwhelmed by their responsibility to fight all varieties of crime. Shell-shocked little Steve wonders aloud why he can’t rollerblade at the beach anymore.
“I didn’t stop it because of no toxic waste,” he says. “I stopped because there was a gang that used to hang out there!”
“The Stoners?” Tanya asks (what happened to The Stingers?).
“I heard the guy who’s their leader is 7 feet tall. He supposedly only comes out after the sunsets. And he drinks human blood,” Steve says.
What cruel person is forcing these 10-year-olds to rid the city of corruption? Their psyches are broken, their innocence taken. When Damien watches The Stingers kidnap his mom, not 20 feet away from him, he doesn’t chase after them. He doesn’t even show emotion.
“Mom. They took my mom,” he says, and suddenly it’s Steve’s job to keep Damien from cracking.
In all seriousness, “Pocket Ninjas” isn’t “so bad, it’s good.” It’s so bad, and good in spurts. But to watch the whole thing in one 78-minute-long session…it’s not healthy. And I swear, half of the movie is spent on training scenes, sequences in which the good ninjas and the bad guys stand in a line, punching and kicking at the air for minutes at a time. They’re unintentionally hilarious the first time, baffling the next 20.
But like I said, it’s amazing cinema in small, random spurts. Watch some clips on YouTube, if you don’t believe me. Also, Joseph Valencia is clearly camera shy, so keep an eye out for that.