Home Education Magazine
March-April 1997 - Columns
Movie Reviews - Joanna Payne
3 Ninjas Kick Back, Treasure Island, Candleshoe, The Doctor
3 Ninjas Kick Back
This PG-rated sequel is pretty much a carbon copy of the first 3 Ninjas, but the sequel is even more entertaining. Brothers Rocky, Colt, and Tum Tum again help their grandfather defeat some villains, putting the ninja skills that grandpa taught them to considerable use.
This time Grandpa goes to Japan to present a special dagger to the winner of a ninja tournament. A bad guy wants the dagger and sends his three silly nephews to steal it. None of this is scary. In fact, one scene where the goofy nephews dress up as nurses to kidnap Grandpa from a hospital is pure slapstick comedy.
3 Ninjas Kick Back offers some good role models for kids. When challenged by some bullies, the brothers follow their grandfather's advice to exercise restraint rather than rising to the bait. During a baseball game an umpire suspends both teams for unsportsmanlike behavior and tells the hooligans to "grow up." We also learn that a true ninja lives a clean life, doesn't brag, and is free from desire for material things. The bad guy even repents at the end.
There's an emphasis on the importance of family. At first the boys balk at accompanying Grandpa to Japan because they will miss a championship baseball game, but they soon decide that Grandpa is more important. When the boys are in Japan, they call Mom every day precisely at 2 p.m., even if they happen to be in the middle of a ninja fight. Little Tum Tum misses Mom and Dad despite all the fun he's having knocking down bad guys like bowling pins. Mom and Dad are missing the kids, too. The boys engage in normal brotherly teasing, but they care for each other and work well together.
3 Ninjas Kick Back is an upbeat, colorful, entertaining film that's full of energy and fun. I think both boys and girls over a wide age range will enjoy this, and the adults who go with them will probably have a good time, too.
Content Of Possible Concern To Parents: B-tt (2). F-rt (1). P-ssed (1). S-cks (1). A boy passes gas repeatedly. A boy lies to get approval of a credit card charge for some airline tickets, but we already know that the owner of the card would approve the purchase. There is lots of ninja fighting, mostly by three brothers approximately age 5 to 14, including some fights where the boys, along with a girl ninja, take on large groups of adults all at once. Although there are a few good kicks, including two to male genitals, most of the fighting seems unreal and no one is seriously injured. It's more like a jerky ballet than a form of brutality. The unreal quality could be a problem. The movie is obviously a fantasy, but will kids understand that, or might they think about copying what they see in the movie should they meet up with some bad guys. Parents might consider a discussion about this after the movie.
In Disney's G-rated adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novel, Treasure Island, Jim Hawkins, a boy who serves drinks in his mother's inn is given a treasure map by a dying pirate who is staying there. Two local men who witness the transfer decide to get a ship to sail to the island with the boy. Having some trouble finding an honest crew, the men turn to a local cook, Long John Silver, who is actually a pirate. He rounds up a crew of brigands and off they sail.
As they approach their destination, the skullduggery begins. The first mate mysteriously washes overboard. As some rowboats take off for shore, the crew remaining aboard attempts to take over the ship, but they are confined by the captain. In The boats, Jim is taken hostage, to be released when the crew is released. Control of the ship, the map, and Jim passes back and forth between the good guys and the bad guys, with some fighting and stabbing and shooting.
In the end, Long John Silver protects Jim from the bad guys, steals the treasure and sails into the open ocean in a small boat. Robert Newton gives a very entertaining performance as Long John Silver, all flashing eyes and wiggly eyebrows and gravely voice. This is a good adventure film for a mostly male audience.
In this G-rated film, a 14 year-old juvenile delinquent, Casey Brown (played by Jody Foster), is recruited from Los Angeles by English con man Harry Bundage. Casey is to travel to England and pose as the long lost granddaughter of Lady Edmund St. John, who lives on a vast estate called Candleshoe. Casey, with her awkward street attitude and brusque manner bears no resemblance to royalty, but she knows how to run a con, and she is soon comfortably ensconced at Candleshoe.
Con man Harry has a genuine treasure map with clues leading to a fortune in Spanish doubloons, hidden somewhere in the manor. He wants Casey to poke around until she finds the loot, which she will split with Harry.
Lady St. Edmund's wealth is more apparent than real, and each month the household help, consisting of butler Priory and four kids who were taken in from a local children's home ("because I have so much space!" says Lady St. Edmund) scramble to sell eggs, jams, cakes, and produce to pay taxes. Priory, in amusing disguises, pretends to be the gardener and the chauffeur as well as monthly visitor "Colonel Dennis" to keep up the appearance of normalcy for her Ladyship.
At first, Casey refuses to help, lording it over the other kids. As you might guess, however, she comes around, and becomes a member of the "family," betraying nasty Harry and eventually finding the treasure to save Candleshoe.
Helen Hayes and David Niven give absolutely marvelous performances as Lady St. Edmund and her butler, Priory. Hayes seems so genuine as the "veddy English lady," it's easy to forget she's American, and Niven is gently charming and often comical in his various roles. These two veterans lift this film to a much higher level than it could have ever gone without them. Who will replace these elegant pros, who always brought class to any production fortunate enough to have them?
Content Of Possible Concern To Parents: As the opening credits roll, we see Casey Brown, the head of a group of Los Angeles street kids, lead the other kids in stealing a basketball (only to discard it almost immediately) and fruit (depositing a banana peel in a mailbox). They dump a barrel of oil in front of their pursuers. Then Casey goes to the grungy apartment where she lives with two uncaring, unrelated adults and deposits more loot, for her keep. This scene lasts about three minutes. There is a lengthy scene near the end where the good guys tussle with the bad guys, but this is not to be taken seriously, and parts of it are very funny.
In this PG-13-rated film for mature teens and their parents, William Hurt stars as a top surgeon who is emotionally detached from his patients, wife, kids--everyone. He gets a lesson in compassion and the value of emotional closeness when he becomes a patient in the hospital where he works.
Undergoing therapy, he befriends a patient (Elizabeth Perkins) who is dying of a brain tumor. With her, he learns how to really become involved with another human being--who she is, how she thinks, what she cares about.
After her death, he connects with his lonely wife (Christine Lahti) and trains other doctors on how to care for patients. There are excellent performances all around, and Hurt is especially believable in his transformation, since he was not such a bad guy to begin with--just uninvolved. The movie will remind viewers of the Golden Rule and of the importance of taking time to nurture relationships. The lessons taught and the warm, happy ending make this suitable for family viewing, although children under 13 would need some parent preparation to generate interest in the subject matter.
Content Of Possible Concern To Parents: God D--n (1). F--k (1). Twice, a song entitled "Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw" is sung in an operating room. There are some brief scenes of bloody human innards, but it was not enough to upset this very squeamish reviewer. © Joanna Payne
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