Chris Farley’s life was cut far too short at the age of 33. It has been 23 years since we lost the beloved comedian, but thankfully, he will continue to live on with his movies. Granted, not all of them were masterpieces, but one that could be considered a guilty pleasure is about to hit Netflix. If you like your Chris Farley with a bit of physical humor then Beverly Hills Ninja was made for you.
Beverly Hills Ninja tells the story of a baby who is rescued by a clan of ninjas. An ancient legend says that a foreign white male would appear to them and become a master like the world had never seen. Believing this baby is that legendary child, the ninjas take him in. Haru, the name given to him by the ninjas, is the farthest thing from a master ninja one could get. Obese, clumsy, lacking in anything resembling ninja skills, Haru – played by Chris Farley – is unable to graduate as a ninja with the rest of his class.
Knowing that Chris Farley’s Haru will never make it as a ninja, the clan decides to leave him to protect the temple while they go out on a mission. While he is there alone, Sally Jones (Nicollette Sheridan) arrives seeking assistance. She thinks her boyfriend is up to no good and would like the clan to investigate. Haru figures out that Sally’s boyfriend and his bodyguard, Nobu, are involved in counterfeiting money. Before Haru can tell Sally this, she has gone back to the United States. Haru decides he is going to fly to Beverly Hills to find Sally and let her know what’s going on. The clan, knowing Haru can’t take care of himself, send his adoptive brother Gobei (Robin Shou) to watch over Haru in secret.
The rest of the movie is classic Chris Farley, loaded with physical humor and silly gags, much like many of his other movies. Beverly Hills Ninja was much of the same. When it comes to where Beverly Hills Ninja ranks as a Chris Farley vehicle, critics didn’t take kindly to it. Many loathed the film, with one critic trying to compare Farley with another lost-too-soon actor John Candy. “Farley might want to be like John Candy, but, while Candy knew how to make an audience laugh, Farley keeps missing the mark,” said James Berardinelli of Reelviews. Pete Vonder Haar from Film Threat rudely stated, “Maybe Death did Chris Farley a favor by sparing him from making more shit like this.”
Probably the biggest critic of Chris Farley was Farley himself, who was said to have hated the movie. His manager said that Farley was so disappointed in the movie that after the first screening Farley just cried on his shoulder. He told his manager he never wanted to do another movie like that.
But fans saw it differently, as the movie opened number one at the box office. Amazingly, Christian Bale told Esquire, via Yahoo, back in 2010, that Beverly Hills Ninja was one of his go-to movies for fun. “I always choose… the default answer for me is Beverly Hills Ninja. It’s an easy one to give because most people go, ‘What? Oh, okay.’ But Chris Farley’s fantastic. Clearly I’ve got other films, but I just watched that two nights in a row and was crying with laughter both times, so I just went, ‘Yeah I’ll give that as my answer.’”
Of course, we’ll sadly never know what could have been for Chris Farley’s acting career. Before his untimely death, Farley had recorded around 85% of his voice role as Shrek, a role that would eventually be completely rewritten for and performed by Mike Myers. Farley was also lining up a role as the legendary silent film star and comedian Fatty Arbuckle, a movie that was to be written by David Mamet.
There were also other roles that Chris Farley had to turn down for other commitments, or simply because the studio forced him to turn them down. He was going to play Jim Carrey’s part in The Cable Guy, but a scheduling conflict forced him to say no. He was also planning to play Ishmael in Kingpin – a role that eventually went to Randy Quaid – but Paramount forced him to honor his commitment to Black Sheep. Farley also had plans to appear in movies like Ghostbusters 3, Atuk, A Confederacy of Dunces.
Beverly Hills Ninja may not be at the top of Chris Farley’s comedies, but it’s certainly a solid reminder of the comedic great we lost too soon. Beverly Hills Ninja will be back on Netflix on February 1, 2021.