Friday, August 10, 2018

Movie #472: The Next Karate Kid

The Next Karate Kid is the fourth movie in the series, starring Noriyuki "Pat" Morita, Hillary Swank, Michael Ironside, Chris Conrad, and Michael Calivieri. It's pretty awful.

Daniel-san has departed for...well, we don't know (and I didn't see Part III so I don't know where they left it). Mr. Miyagi (Morita) travels to Boston to receive a medal for his WWII service, and winds up staying with the widow of an Army pal (Constance Towers, the widow, not the pay). He meets her orphaned teenage granddaughter Julie (Swank), who is way angry and lashing out because her parents died. Miyagi sends Louisa back to California while he stays and takes care of the house, to give them a little time apart.

Julie's high school is run by the evil Dugan (Ironside) and his evil band of evil "teens" (seriously, exactly no one in this movie passes for a high school student), and is on the verge of getting expelled because...Dugan runs this joint, I guess? She winds up getting involved with Eric (Conrad), but then gets suspended for two weeks and Miyagi takes her to a Buddhist monastery where she learns karate, and then comes home and goes to prom with Eric, but that winds up in a fight between her and Ned (Calivieri, the head evil teen, who just straight-up assaulted her earlier in the movie). She beats him handily, but then Dugan starts going nuts, so Miyagi steps in and whups his ass.

OK, where to start. First of all, Karate Kid at least established the characters and spent time on the relationship between Daniel and Miyagi, but also gave Daniel some agency and let him fuck up a bit. Here, Julie spends a lot of time getting blackmailed by everyone, and not just Ned ("come with me to the docks or I'll have you kicked out of school"), but also Eric ("say you'll miss me or I won't feed your pet hawk") and even Miyagi ("do your homework or I won't teach you karate"). Also, Julie shifts from angry and nigh-feral to calm and contemplative by spending time at the monastery and repeating Miyagi's fortune-cookie wisdom, and that's on-brand for the series, at least, but part of that shift involves wearing skirts and becoming more feminine, and that's kind of an issue?

But the thing I find strangest is Miyagi's "final battle" against Dugan. I think it's mostly because the writers figured the audience was a-hankerin' to see Miyagi kick ass, but like, not really? The series has always been about Miyagi teaching his student karate, and the application of those lessons not just in a fight, but in life. But there's none of that here, it's just Julie beating up one dude, and then Dugan refusing to let it drop, so Miyagi has to "save" her by finishing the fight.

Possible I'm giving this more analysis than it needs, but that's kind of what I do. Anyway, the script is weak, the humor is trite, the performances are kind of overwrought (even from Swank, who's actually a good actress), and the only one who seems like he's in the right place is Ironside, who's kind of made a career of playing "scenery-chewing asshole."

My Grade: D-
Rewatch Value: IINSIAIFWT

Next up: Night at the Museum