MOVIE

Film: "Karate Kid Part III"

Stars: Ralph Macchio and Noriyuki "Pat" Morita

Theaters: Annex, Eton Square and Cinema 8 (Broken Arrow,

Sand Springs)

Rating: PG (violence).

Quality:ONE STAR(on a scale of zero to five stars)

Here's a frightening thought: Given the dollar-sign mentality

of certain sequel makers, it's not inconceivable that sometime

around the turn of the century we might see something like

"Karate Kid Meets Rocky Part 1" - Pudgy Punk Versus Punchy

Pug in a Fight to the Death (or at least until Part II)!

And the man behind the camera will probably be John G. Avildsen,

who's fast becoming the world's most shamelessly manipulative

moviemaker.

Avildsen, who directed the original Rocky (his best work,

along with "Save the Tiger") and the first two "Karate

Kid" segments, has achieved a kind of state-of-the-art

way with underdog-fights-back films. He knows how to grind

the underdog down under the hobnailed boot of a maddeningly

vicious villain; he knows just when to crank up the inspirational

sound track and bring the battered hero battling back to

vanquish evil, beat the bloody pulp out of the bad guys

and win the girl.

Unfortunately, Avildsen's considerable skills seem to be

worn woefully thin in "The Karate Kid Part III," a cynical

piece of paint-by-the-numbers work that, if there were justice,

would deliver the knockout blow to Daniel LaRusso's karate

career.

As it is, "The Karate Kid Part III" will probably satisfy

the revenge fantasies of enough mental adolescents to be

make money at the box office. So don't count "The Karate

Kid" out in the sequel arena.

The original 1984 "The Karate Kid" was a sappy but sincere

story of a troubled young boy and the valuable lessons he

learned, through karate, from a crafty and wise old Japanese

handyman. But those lessons on the wisdom of self-restraint

and the value of personal honor were tarnished somewhat

in the first sequel, which seemed to preach the practice

of peace while trading on revenge and violence.

This second sequel tosses out all pretense of any high-flown

philosophy and sinks to the level of a "Walking Tall"

vengeance saga.

This time around, Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio as he nears

30 and looks soft and pudgy) is no longer a kid, but he

still acts like one. His spiritual mentor, Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki

"Pat" Morita), still trims bonsai trees and talks in fortune-cookie

aphorisms.

The villain of this numbingly predictable tale is an evil

Vietnam vet named Terry (Thomas Ian Griffith), who runs

a sleazy company, DynaTox, that illegally disposes of toxic

waste. Terry has big plans to open a string of karate schools

to poison the minds of young people everywhere, but apparently

he needs to capture Daniel's All-Valley Karate Champion

belt in order to launch his nefarious plan.

Pretty subtle stuff, huh?

Oh, Daniel hems and haws around about defending his title,

and Mr. Miyagi calmly preaches his wisdom of pacifism. But

when the chips are down, Daniel fights with a violent fury

(he has to, otherwise the film would be without a climactic,

hackle-raising fight scene).

"The Karate Kid Part III" is a slickly produced adventure

of the most simple-minded kind. In the end, all of Mr. Miyagi's

pleasant pronouncements about peace and honor mean nothing.

Expediency is all in this movie. Pacifism doesn't film well.

Fight scenes do. And "Karate Kid" sequels are not about

philosophy, they're about fighting, pure and simple.