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The Next Karate Kid
1994 - PG - 107 Mins.
Director: Christopher Cain
Written By: Mark Lee
Starring: Pat Morita, Hilary Swank, Michael Ironside, Chris Conrad, Jim Ishida
Review by: John Ulmer
   
John G. Avildsen's "The Karate Kid" was a child's "Rocky," a drama set amongst the intriguing world of karate/martial arts competition. (Not surprising, since Avildsen directed the latter film.) But it carried a non-violent message about it that was left behind in the messy sequels.

1989 marked the end of the series. Well, at least for Ralph Macchio's Daniel. Now, there is Julie (Hilary Swank), a misguided and troubled teenaged girl who is left in the care of Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), the legendary "Wax on, wax off" Chinese man from the previous installments. Now he is taking Julie under his wing and caring for her, much the same as she cares for a hawk named Angel that she has in a cage above the school she goes to.

But soon trouble sparks in Julie's public life, which results in her being suspended from school for two weeks. This gives Mr. Miyagi and her some time to bond and reach a mutual respect for each other. Julie is taken to a Buddhist monastery, where she is taught to respect the religions and rules of others, to stray from violence when possible, and to enjoy and not mistreat life--including the lives of animals. *Yech. *

I got the point of the first film. I'm starting to feel a bit of deja-vu. Some sequels are a continuation ("The Godfather Part II," "Terminator 2"), and some are retreads ("Police Academy" sequels, "Rocky" sequels). This is a basic retread of the same ol' material used in the previous films. Whoever thought that rekindling the series was going to be profitable must have had a screw loose somewhere in their ego-inflated head. I mean, honestly, what's the point? Did the third film in the series really make that much extra money? I don't think so. But yet they thought this could work--and it doesn't. The big addition advertised here is that it's about a girl and not a boy. Well, flip me over and slap me sideways--this is seriously original and mind-blowing and worthy of two more sequels like the first film inspired!

Not.

"The Next Karate Kid" is nothing more than straight-to-video material, and yet it somehow made its way into theaters. It bombed, as far as I can tell, but it is starting to increase in video rentals due to the fact that a younger Hilary Swank ("Insomnia") practically started her career here, before going on to win an Oscar for the 1999 film "Boys Don't Cry." You wouldn't be able to tell that she is a good actress here. In fact, she's quite annoying. Her character says the dumbest things possible given the circumstance. (For example, she wakes up in the Buddhist monastery and runs outside, screaming for Mr. Miyagi, while meditating monks are disturbed. She finds Miyagi only to tell him that she heard a loud drum outside and wants to see if he'd like to do something today. Is she really playing a mentally-developed teenager, here?)

The film has an odd charm about it, and irregardless of its flaws I found myself being strangely attached to the finished film's outcome...but then the warmness dissipated by the time the truly ridiculous ending revealed itself in full idiocricy. The villain of the film is the same type of non-motivated villain seen in "Part III"--he takes a vengeance against these young kids and treats them as if they have committed some disastrous offense in regards to him. Quite pathetic, really. And the conclusion (spoiler!), in which the bad guys create a circle of humans and Julie enters to fight one of the teens who has been taunting her throughout the movie, just appalled me. "The Next Karate Kid" carries one of the worst endings of all time in cinematic history. This is a series that did not need one sequel. This is a series that never needed three.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Unwatchable.  One of the worst of the year.  Skip it.
  0.5 out of 5 stars

 
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