Beverly Hills Ninja

on January 17, 1997 by Rick Schultz
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After Chris Farley's brilliant "Black Sheep" last spring, audiences everywhere are breathlessly awaiting the word on his new comic masterpiece<197>not! Let's face it, Farley is no Peter Sellers, and the low comedy "Black Sheep" just forgot to add the comedy. Though he shares the late John Belushi's ability to make flab funny, Farley lacks that actor's repertoire of facial expressions (Belushi could tickle an audience with a raised eyebrow). All Farley seems to be able to muster up is a goofy sweetness. But, for many viewers, that may be enough.
"Beverly Hills Ninja" follows Farley from adopted, bumbling ninja to bumbling hero. That's not much of a character arc, and the plot is pure formula, with Farley pursuing beautiful Nicolette Sheridan and her evil boyfriend (Nathaniel Parker) from Japan to Beverly Hills, where Parker needs a second set of plates to counterfeit large sums of Japanese money. When Sheridan's life is in jeopardy, it's Farley to the rescue. The actor falls down a lot and runs into things, which children will no doubt love. But adults might get a bit antsy waiting for the film's subtle high points, as when Farley accidentally trashes a sacred scroll, telling Sheridan that his ninja brothers "may have a second copy."
"Robin Shou stands out as Farley's much put-upon older brother. He's got the dark deadpan and physical grace of a first-rate movie ninja. There's little chemistry between Sheridan and Farley; the relationship, perhaps wisely, is played for laughs. And Chris Rock is wasted in the demeaning role of a bellboy eager to become a ninja. (At one point, Rock is reduced to running around trying to pull the head off a chicken.) Dennis Dugan's direction is adequate, but not much more. Yet there's at least one consolation: David Spade is not in the movie. Starring Chris Farley, Nicolette Sheridan, Nathaniel Parker, Chris Rock and Robin Shou. Directed by Dennis Dugan. Written by Mark Feldberg & Mitch Klebanoff. A TriStar release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for sex-related humor, martial arts violence and a humorous drug-related scene. Running time: 85 min
Tags: Nicolette Sheridan, Nathaniel Parker, Chris Farley, Chris Rock, Robin Shou, Dennis Dugan, ninja, kung-fu, spoof, Beverly Hills, boyfriend, Japan, rescue, slapstick comedy
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