Tuesday, February 7, 2017

#2,303. Ninja Cheerleaders (2008)

Directed By: David Presley

Starring: Trishelle Cannatella, Ginny Weirick, Maitland McConnell

Tag line: "This Summer's Destination For Fun"

Trivia: This marked actor Richard Davalos' final screen appearance

One thing about us film fans: we love a good debate!

Is Citizen Kane the greatest movie ever made?

Who was funnier, Chaplin or Keaton?

Do you prefer The Godfather, or is Goodfellas the best mob flick of all-time?

2001: A Space Odyssey or Blade Runner?

Alfred Hitchcock or Howard Hawks?

Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers?

The list of potential topics is almost as endless as the discussions they inspire.

Today, I will offer my two cents on a subject every bit as vital as those listed above: Which is the quintessential ninja cheerleader movie, 2002’s Cheerleader Ninjas, or 2008’s Ninja Cheerleaders?

At first glance, Courtney (Trishelle Cannatella), April (Ginny Weirick) and Monica (Maitland McConnell) appear to be average, everyday junior college cheerleaders. But there’s more to these beauties than meets the eye. For one, they’re skilled ninjas: trained by Master Hiroshi (George Takei), these girls can kick some major ass, and recently swiped a valuable sword that was being held at a U.S. army base (sending about a dozen or so soldiers to the hospital). In addition to their mastery of the martial arts, the trio have night jobs dancing at a local strip club (also owned by Hiroshi), and have made enough in tips to pay for their Ivy League education (all three are straight “A” students, and been accepted to Brown University).

Their plans for the future are seemingly put on-hold, however, when Hiroshi is kidnapped by Victor Lazzaro (Michael Pare), the Mafioso recently released from prison who once owned the strip club (Hiroshi bought the place when it was auctioned off by the IRS). Along with keeping their master (and boss) prisoner, Lazzaro also stole the safe holding the girl’s college savings, and refuses to turn either Hiroshi or the money over until he’s given the deed to the club.

Can the trio ace their finals, cheer the basketball team to victory, win a $50,000 strip-off competition, and rescue Hiroshi all in a single day, or are their dreams for a better life over before they ever had a chance to begin?

Five minutes into Ninja Cheerleaders, I knew it was going to be a very different movie than Cheerleader Ninjas; while the 2002 film was a straight-up comedy, Ninja Cheerleaders opens with the girls stealing the sword from the military base (and knocking out an entire squad in the process). It’s a fairly thrilling sequence, and while the fight choreography isn’t up to the level of, say, Kill Bill Vol. 1 or The Matrix, it’s exciting enough to grab your attention.

And thanks to its various strip routines, Ninja Cheerleaders is a lot sexier than Cheerleader Ninjas (none of the three leads strip down to their birthday suits in Ninja Cheerleaders, but the scenes are plenty enticing all the same). As for the supporting cast, both George Takei and Michael Pare look as if they’re having a good time, and Larry Poindexter is solid as a police detective following the trail of bodies the girls leave behind.

That’s not to say Ninja Cheerleaders is flawless. The musical score is way too loud (at times, it drowns out the dialogue), and the three leads, though sexy, aren’t always convincing (as either students or ninjas). Also, I could have done without the (thankfully brief) scenes of the girls’ home lives (squeezing some family drama into a movie that didn’t need any); and a rather bad-ass character named Kinji (played by Natasha Chang), a ninja brought in by Lazzaro to neutralize Courtney and the others, had potential, but never amounts to much (I found myself wanting to see more of Kinji, and can’t understand why writer / director David Presley gave her so little to do).

That said, I definitely prefer Ninja Cheerleaders to Cheerleader Ninjas; aside from being the more interesting of the two, Ninja Cheerleaders was also a lot more fun.

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