Ternet Ninja

We saw this Danish film, dubbed into Flemish and under the title De Wraak van de Ninja. According to the IMDb, the film was released in English speaking territories under the misleadingly cute title of Checkered Ninja. This has to be the darkest children’s film I have seen in a long time.

The film opens in a Thai sweatshop with one of the child workers being beaten to death by a Danish businessman. This is also the point at which the toy ninja of the title comes to life and soon finds his way onto a boat bound for Denmark.

Once in Denmark, the ninja falls into the hands of Alex (Aske in the original), the sort of teenage underdog you would expect to encounter in a film like this. His friends are nerds, he’s a target for the school bully and is terrified that anyone will find out about his crush on the beautiful and popular Jessica.

Much of what follows is reasonably typical buddy-movie fare, with the ninja helping Alex to build his confidence, face down the school bully and attract the attention of Jessica. Of course, the ninja has his own agenda and expects Alex’s help — just at the wrong time for our hero.

Given the way it starts, Ternet Ninja is a surprisingly funny film. Although the plot’s outline not too unfamiliar, there are plenty of touches and several surprises to remind you that this isn’t a Hollywood film and you shouldn’t assume too much about what is going to happen next. And some of the set-pieces, especially Alex’s show-down with the bully, really are spectacular.

The animation is well handled, and the character design manages to be unique enough to avoid any accusations of CGI blandness. And the ninja himself is a fantastic combination of cute and dangerous.

Altogether, Ternet Ninja is a fun family film with some quite dark undertones. Not only did the film manage to keep all of us entertained but it also managed to prompt a discussion about modern slavery while we were heading home.

It really is well worth seeing.