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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

'The Karate Kid Part III' / 'The Next Karate Kid' Blu-ray Double Feature: Further Adventures of Daniel-San & Mr. Miyagi

The Mill Creek Entertainment January 8, 2019 Blu-ray double feature release of "The Karate Kid Part III" and "The Next Karate Kid" offers a chance for a fun escapist evening during the dark and cold weather that is settling in for most of us. The bright sunshine and corny plots full of teen angst and earnestness is the perfect cure for what ails us.

The best news is that rewatching the original 1984 "Kid" reinforces that it has many merits. The concept is that (somewhat ala the '70scom "Alice") teen Jersey boy Daniel Russo (Ralph Macchio) is uprooted when his mother takes a job in Los Angeles. Like "Alice," the family station wagon barely makes the trip. The other similarity that the family ends up living in a shabby apartment.

Ala '70scom "One Day at a Time," building superintendent Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) becomes a father figure. This handyman transform Daniel into the titular martial arts teen sans shell in response to that new kid in town being the victim of vicious bullying. 

The quality of the first film and the cuteness and the charm of Macchio in it make it worth watching. 

"Karate Kid II" commences in the immediate wake of the tournament that provides the climax of "Kid." Daniel and his sensei soon travel to the Miyagi birthplace of Okinawa where adventure and romance once again ensue for these friends.

"III" begins with flashbacks that briefly recap "I" and "II" before joining Daniel and Miyagi landing at LAX from their Asian trip, The context for the following thoughts on "III" are that it is so absurdly bad that it is good. The first problem is that Macchio is much less cute, charming, and naive than in the first film.

The comic-book nature of "III" relates to over-the-top villain Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith). This grown-ass one-percenter has a ridiculous vendetta against Daniel and Miyagi for their provoked humiliation of John Kreese and the Cobra Kai "gang" of that once-respected karate master. Much of the unintended humor relates to our heroes having no idea about that animus.

A concurrent series of unfortunate circumstances lead to a premise for a sitcom in the form of Daniel moving in with Miyagi and becoming his partner in a bonsai tree store. The love interest is Jessica (Robyn Lively), who owns and operates a nearby pottery shop.

Silver recruits Cobra Kai student Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan) to goad a still-oblivious Daniel into entering the tournament that he won at the end of "Kid." The idea is that Daniel will lose to Barnes and restore the "honor" of Cobra Kai. 

This not-so-subtle persuasion leads to a cliffhanger that results in Daniel registering for the contest; Miyagi refusing to train him and pulling an inarguably dick move drives our still-clueless post-adolescent into the web of Silver. The "grand reveal" arguably is the best bad moment in "III." 

"III" winds up with a deja-vu all over again moment; Daniel is getting badly pummeled in his championship match with Barnes; it seems that all is lost until (of course) Daniel rallies and (perhaps literally) kicks the ass of the larger and stronger Barnes. Of course, this sends Silver and Kreese into hysterical in both senses of the word tailspins. 

"The Next Karate Kid" is a kinder and gentler movie that attempts to reboot the franchise. It opens with Miyagi attending a ceremony honoring his WWII Army unit; meeting the widow of his Anglo commanding officer leads to Miyagi visiting that woman, who is raising orphaned granddaughter Julie Pierce (Hilary Swank).

A series of unfortunate circumstances this time leads to Miyagi becoming the caretaker of troubled teen Julie. The love interest is hunky blond-boy Eric, who is not put off by the hostility of Julie, 

The Cobra Kai element this time is the ROTC/Hitler Youth style school group the Alpha Elite, which counts a reluctant Eric among its members. The dual catalysts for conflict are Alpha Elite teen leader Ned wanting to get in the pants of a reluctant Julie and related defiance by Eric getting him ousted from the group.

The rest of the story is that Miyagi takes Julie to a Buddhist monastery for karate training that is designed to teach her discipline and to improve her 'tude..They return home only to find that things have not changed much.

Excitable boy Ned ultimately pushes Eric too far in a manner that leads to a late-night rumble. We learn whether boys do cry and the extent to which a girl must be brought in to do the job of a man.

As mentioned above, the appeal of "III" and "Next" is the escapist fun of this continuation of a franchise that has a solid base. 

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