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Movie Review : An Anemic Outing for 'Karate Kid Part III'

June 30, 1989|KEVIN THOMAS

"The Karate Kid Part III" (citywide) is one film too many. The fresh and inspired 1984 sleeper, a stirring, worthy crowd-pleaser, starred little Ralph Macchio as the new kid in Reseda who defeats the high school bullies when coached in karate by Noriyuki (Pat) Morita, his apartment house handyman. It did cry out for a sequel, which took us to Okinawa for new and reasonably enjoyable adventures. Part III, however, is not merely a disaster of the most uninspired contrivances but is actually unsuitable for youngsters, the series' natural audience. The Karate Kid has gone the way of Rocky (whose series was also launched by director John Avildsen).

Macchio's Danny La Russo and Morita's Mr. Miyagi are back from Okinawa and learn that Martin Kove's Kreese, the nasty proprietor of a karate studio where all those bullies are trained, has gone bankrupt because Danny defeated them all and became a karate champion. Leaving town, Kreese pays a farewell visit to his old Vietnam buddy Silver (a smirky, steely Thomas Ian Griffith), an industrialist who lives in a Frank Lloyd Wright mansion in the Hollywood Hills. Silver, whose life Kreese saved in the war, is inexplicably a raging, ultra-sadistic psychopath. You'd think Silver would merely offer Kreese a job, but no, he sends him off to a Tahiti vacation while he plots revenge against Danny with the relish of Ming the Merciless.

Danny has reluctantly agreed with Mr. Miyagi that he should not defend his title--that the use of karate is to defend one's honor and not to win trophies. Sure enough, after some of the most labored and improbable plot maneuvering ever devised, Danny has to defend his title against a Silver clone (Sean Kanan).

Two things make Part III objectionable for impressionable kids. First, it's absurd that as highly a principled a man as Mr. Miyagi would, after only the slightest protest, allow Danny to spend his college education savings on launching him in a bonsai tree nursery (which never, by the way, seems to attract a single customer). Wouldn't Mr. Miyagi at least want Danny to consult his mother (Randee Heller), who is away the entire film caring for a sick uncle? In short, the film gives the impression that if you're a whiz at karate you don't need a college education. Second, the monstrous Silver offers to coach the unsuspecting Danny in a manner that does serious harm to the youth. Do we really need this protracted display of sadism, which just might give some youngsters some dangerous ideas.

So ridiculous is Part III that Danny doesn't actually expect Mr. Miyagi to understand that he agreed only to defend his title because the bad guys had him and his girlfriend (Robyn Lively) dangling over a cliff. The film defeats Macchio, now nearly grown, and Morita, as skilled as they are, and Kove isn't able to be amusingly villainous in such glum circumstances. In short, writer Robert Mark Kamen gave director Avildsen and his cast too little to work with for "The Karate Kid Part III" (rated a lenient PG) to have gone into production in the first place.

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