Movie Review: "The Next Karate Kid" (1994)
"The Karate Kid, Part III" left a stale taste in the mouths of many, it was a rehash of the original film with a few tweaks here and there. Now we have the fourth film in the series (and the final nail in the coffin, until some little twirp named Jaden Smith... anyways, different review), "The Next Karate Kid". What's so different this time around? Not much really, other than the fact that Daniel Larusso is gone, now replaced by Julie -- another troubled youth who is bullied by others.
We find out that Daniel Larusso has moved on and is attending college -- But wait a second, in "The Karate Kid, Part III", he showed zero interest in college; instead, he wanted to go against Miyagi's advice and open a tree store with his money. Continuity mistake I presume? Anyways, "The Next Karate Kid" takes place in Boston, departing from the original California setting.
Miyagi travels there to attend a World War II memorial that celebrates fallen Japanese soldiers during the war. In the process, he meets Louisa Pierce, the widowed wife of his commanding officer. Pierce's granddaughter happens to be Julie. Got the connection now, right? Not only does this set up require us to sit through a filler opening sequence, but it also leads to yet another attempt to rehash the original film.
We start the film off with some kind of celebration, complete with a band and an orchestra, out in the open. What are they celebrating? I have no idea. A limo pulls up, Mr. Miyagi steps out. Oh wait, they're celebrating the latest 'Karate Kid' sequel, right? Nope. Mr. Miyagi is attending a World War II memorial which he plays a vital role in.
Now what does World War II have to do with this movie? Absolutely nothing. So what does this scene have to do with the movie? Other than the fact that Mr. Miyagi's partner in the memorial happens to be the mother of Julie, his soon-to-be new student. Gee, great way to tie a pointless opening sequence into introducing Daniel Larusso's female replacement. This has to be one of the most stupidest opening sequences ever.
Zerox On, Zerox Off
"The Next Karate Kid" is essentially another rehash of the first movie, much like "The Karate Kid, Part III" was. The only thing this sequel has going for it is that it has a female karate kid this time around. Sorry, you're going to have add a bit more originality to it than just that, because the rest of this movie has zero.
We have the simple 'teenager is bullied by others and is aided by wise old man to fight back' story... again. No new flavor, no new spice, no new twist thrown into it (unlike "The Karate Kid, Part II"). I will give props to the writers for not having the final fight set during a tournament though (more on that later).
From Villainy to Comedy
First impressions are everything, such is the case when it comes to your movie villains. In "The Next Karate Kid", when we first see the villains, it's a shot of them walking down a hallway in school, right into the camera's view -- From the feet first, slowly leading up to the bulge in their jeans, followed by tight t-shirts. Are these guys really the bad guys or are they just a bunch of morons from a Calvin Klein advertisement?
Come to think of it, I don't think these guys ever change their clothes not once during the film. All weirdos aside though, I thought Michael Ironside as the the evil instructor was not a bad casting choice, maybe a bit typecast to be honest, but not bad at all; the man gets the job done.
Anyway, these five or so models are after Julie. Their leader, Ned, has the hots for her, so he makes repeated (and forced) sexual advances on the poor girl. That's cool and all for a bad guy, but beyond that, we could pretty much figure Ned out based on the bad apple from the first and third movies, they all have some stereotypical anger issue which is never explained. They're shallow and one dimensional. It worked as a one time thing in Part 1, but enough is enough.
A New Trick or Two... or None
Towards the end of the film, there's a short-lived prom scene where Julie's sweetheart security guard boyfriend takes her to the dance. But the party is cut short when Ned and his friends bungee-jump from the ceiling and crash-land into the decorations. Why choose this kind of an entrance? I don't know.
What makes it worse is that this scene makes you think there's going to be a big fight at the prom, but all that happens is Julie and her date leave. Pretty pointless stunt, if you ask me. So the two love-birds drive back to her house, Ned smashes up his car and challenges him to a fight.
Long story short, everyone meets up at the docks -- the set piece of the climatic fight scene. The boyfriend takes a good beating from Ned and his buddies, but then Julie and co. show up to save the day. Just prior to the Julie vs. Ned battle though, Ironside gives Ned a little advice that is all too familiar: "If you do this, put her away for good". Hmm, haven't we heard that one before? And Ned has that 'WTF, are you serious?' look on his face. Yep, we've seen that too.
Anyways, Julie uses a new trick/move to defeat the bad guy, nothing too memorable if you ask me. The bad guys all realize that their leader is a psycho and betray him, Miyagi gives the leader a good fight, and before you know it, the credits are rolling. That's it. I'm surprised that they didn't decide to make any use of their surroundings during the fight (remember the big fight at the end of "The Karate Kid, Part II"?).
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