Film: "Karate Kid Part III"
Stars: Ralph Macchio and Noriyuki "Pat" Morita
Theaters: Annex, Eton Square and Cinema 8 (Broken Arrow,
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
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
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"
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
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.