Too bad "Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja" isn't as creative or lively as its title. Instead, this Disney XD series -- receiving an Aug. 13 preview, before returning on a regular basis in September -- is another loud, busy, slightly irritating attempt to chase after the young-boy demo.
The title character is your classic teenage dork who stumbles onto mad ninja powers thanks to a special suit, becoming the Buffy-like protector of his school and its environs. It's certainly a durable premise, but the execution feels shoddy -- another animated "Ben 10" wannabe, without much imagination in the character design or bad guys.
Without being edgy, exactly, there's also a slightly more provocative tint to the gags (farting in lockers, kids being forced to sprint around naked), reflecting the influence of the Fox and Comedy Central animated comedies on the rest of the space.
One can write all this off as the status quo for catering to 9 year olds, but we've seen plenty of recent kids fare that aims higher and is executed better. And the number of players crowding into the field -- including Saban Brands -- underscores its lucrative potential.
Disney XD will spend the better part of a month touting the show's arrival, and maybe it'll connect with kids, whose tastes never cease to surprise. Based on the preview, though, "Randy Cunningham" should use those ninja skills to stay hidden awhile -- or zap its way back to the drawing board.