Our review of The Karate Kid Collection, published February 14th, 2005, is also available.
Wax on, wax off…again.
Like you really need some fancy opening statement about The Karate Kid movies. Show me just one person who can't recite the indelible mantra "wax on, wax off." I dare you. That's right, you can't. You know why? Because everyone and their mother saw the original Karate Kid when it came out back in 1984. The adventures of Mr. Miyagi and Daniel-san are legendary in the scope of kung-fu cinema. The inevitable sequel followed soon after with The Karate Kid Part II. In 1989, Columbia brought back everyone's favorite chopstick duo for The Karate Kid Part III. Starring Noriyuki "Pat" Morita, Ralph Macchio, and directed by John G. Avildsen (Rocky), The Karate Kid Part III does a crane kick on DVD care of Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
After a return from Okinawa, Daniel and Mr. Miyagi find that their apartment complex is being torn down. The two of them move into the guesthouse they started in the first film (Daniel's mother is "conveniently" away taking care of a sick uncle), and become housemates. It's The Odd Couple Part III! Since Miyagi is now out of a job, the two decide to become partners and open up a Bonsai tree store. All goes well until the return of John Kreese (Martin Kove), Daniel's old enemy and owner of the dreaded Cobra Kai Karate School from the first film. Kreese is now a broken man with no students to teach. He goes to his friend Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith), a rich karate instructor who promises to help Kreese exact revenge upon Daniel and Mr. Miyagi.
Daniel starts to get bullied into defending his All Valley Karate Championship title he won in the first Karate Kid. Silver and Kreese are in cahoots together, hatching a plan to take Daniel down with the help of a young, top-notch karate champ (Sean Kanan). Silver even fools Daniel into thinking that he's his friend and will help Daniel defend his title using rigorous and dangerous training methods. This causes great ripples in Daniel and Miyagi's relationship, as Miyagi thinks that Daniel has nothing to prove and is only asking for trouble by fighting.
The stage has been set. The Bonsai tree has been planted. Let the action begin.
Halfway into The Karate Kid Part III, I was struck by the notion that Ralph Macchio should have a bigger career in films than he does. The last thing that I remember him being in was My Cousin Vinny, and though a decent enough film, it was no great shakes. The poor guy really only has The Karate Kid movies as his only crown jewel. Then again, he got to star with Noriyuki "Pat" Morita in three movies, so what does he have to complain about?
The Karate Kid Part III picks up shortly after the second film. It does a nice recap of the first two movies, and takes many of the original elements from The Karate Kid and molds them into a new story. The Karate Kid Part II focused more on Mr. Miyagi than on Daniel. In The Karate Kid Part III, the spotlight is once again on Daniel as he valiantly tries to overcome more bullying by obnoxious teens and adults. Unfortunately, this tends to conjure up images of the original film, which did everything The Karate Kid Part III does, only better. It's not that the main performances by Macchio and Morita are lacking. Both know the material well and give it their all, though Macchio tends to snivel a lot about his lack of skills and strength. It's called self-confidence, buddy. Look into it. Daniel seems (figuratively) like he's a drunk who's fallen off the wagon again. At every turn, he seems to smack himself on the head while chanting how incompetent he's become. Morita, on the other hand, plays it cool and calm, a steady anchor in the sea of Daniel's self-loathing. Morita proves that he knows his character well, using stillness as his main virtue.
The Karate Kid Part III is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Though not as good looking as some older Columbia titles, The Karate Kid Part III sports the best transfer to date of this film. Colors showed small signs of fading, though were generally bright and full. Blacks were solid and dark, and no edge enhancement was spotted. There was a tad bit of grain in a few of the darker scenes, but nothing major. Side B contains a 1.33:1 full frame version of the film.
Audio includes Dolby Digital 2.0 in Spanish, English, Portuguese, and French. The track is nothing impressive, with all elements of dialogue, music, and effects mixed well. The track could easily have been more aggressive, though it's suitable for the film it's matched with. Subtitles in Spanish, English, French, Chinese, Korean, Thai, and Portuguese are also included.
Special features are very limited, including a few filmographies and some theatrical trailers. The trailers consist of an anamorphic Godzilla 2000, plus full frame trailers for The Karate Kid, The Karate Kid Part II, the Chris Farley comedy Beverly Hills Ninja, and the animated Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles—The Pluto Campaign. Conspicuously missing is the trailer for The Karate Kid Part III. Judge Naugle-san say no trailer mean be trouble.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
It's a good idea that Ralph Macchio decided to leave this series when he did. It's not that The Karate Kid Part III is a terrible film, just an unoriginal one. The storyline has a simplistic flare to it, and the villains are poorly written. The character of Terry Silver is so over-the-top evil that one can't help but wonder if he's really Lucifer in disguise. Griffith crackles and sneers as if he's decided to wage World War III on Daniel and Miyagi (like a rich instructor doesn't have better things to do with his time?). What Griffith fails to grasp is that a villain should have more than just one dimension to be convincing. At the very least, he needs to have some pathos to show one or two human qualities. Daniel's old nemesis Kreese is the same way. Kove plays Kreese with such venom that you wonder why these people's lives are consumed with such scalding passion for an old Chinese man and a kid with a New York accent. Everyone wants to destroy our hero's life with a final blow to his noggin. Evil apparently comes in many forms, including B-quality actors.
Or maybe it's a B-quality script. You be the judge.
If you're a fan of the first two The Karate Kid movies, I'm sure you'll find this one equally enjoyable. Though probably the least of the three films (well, there's also The Next Karate Kid, but we'll just pretend that turd doesn't exist), The Karate Kid Part III is fluffy entertainment that should suit anyone looking for a good '80s sequel. The disc from Columbia is well done, though lacking in any solid extra material. What, was Pat Morita too busy making another direct-to-video title with Jay Leno?
Free to go, though there is a reason this movie has a three in the title. Case dismissed.
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