The Karate Kid Part III (DVD, 2001) Reviews
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The Karate Kid Part III (DVD, 2001)

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The Karate Kid, Part III Concludes the Trilogy on a Repetitive Note

Dec 30, 2009
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Miyagi, Miyagi, Miyagi

Cons:Daniel's 'tude, repetitive

The Bottom Line: "Hope confusion end soon, Daniel-san. Miyagi heart empty without you."


This Christmas was a little different for our family. That’s because, for the first time, my brother Benjamin was unable to make it home. We were still together on Christmas, after a fashion, because we spent an hour on the phone with him before opening our presents. But he was in Sasebo, Japan, and we were in Pennsylvania, and next year is likely to bring the same scenario, only by then he will have moved to Okinawa, best known to me as the home of Mr. Miyagi. So when I was flipping through the channels at my grandparents’ the other night and came upon the very beginning of The Karate Kid, Part III, that seemed like a perfect way to keep a little Benjamin in our Christmas travels.

I love the Karate Kid movies, mostly because of Pat Morita’s wonderful portrayal of the wise, funny Mr. Miyagi, who serves as such a valuable mentor to displaced, hot-headed Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio). In the first film, Miyagi teaches Daniel the value of patience and hard work as he slowly instructs him in the art of karate, which gives him a passion into which he can pour all of his energy, not to mention a way of standing up to bullies. The Karate Kid is a Rocky-like story of a plucky underdog triumphing through perseverance. The Karate Kid II, my favorite of the trilogy, is more focused on Miyagi himself, who must face an old feud as he returns home to care for his ailing father. In the process, he imparts valuable lessons about mercy and forgiveness.

The Karate Kid III is not as compelling as either of its predecessors. In many ways it feels like a rehash of the first movie, except that Daniel is not longer a fish out of water, so his amplified angst is harder to deal with. Daniel makes several stupid decisions in this movie, some of them with good intentions, some motivated by pride. He is often a frustrating character. Having moved in with Mr. Miyagi, he’s decided to pass on college, at least for a while, in order to help his housemate open a bonsai shop. This is a noble gesture, but he fails to consult Miyagi on every major decision along the way, leading to some tiresome consequences.

I also found myself a little frustrated with Miyagi at times because he is so adamant that Daniel not return to the tournament to defend his title. I understand his reasoning, and I certainly don’t think Daniel’s head needs to get any bigger, but when it’s clear that not entering the tournament is going to cause major problems, I would think he might relent a little. Eventually he does, but not before the bullies harassing Daniel have made a real mess of things, ransacking Miyagi’s shop and splintering his relationship with Daniel.

There’s a lot of negative emotion in this movie, and for not a lot of grand purpose. The driving force behind the plot is John Reese (Martin Kove), the explosive dojo leader who trained Daniel’s opponent in the first tournament. Daniel’s victory and John’s subsequent meltdown ruined him, and now he’s out for blood. With a little help from his buddy Terry (Thomas Ian Griffith), he’s going to get it. Terry, introducing himself to Daniel with a sob story about John’s death, wriggles his way into the teen’s confidences, eventually convincing him to let him serve as his trainer for the tournament. It’s a subversive game, and by the time Daniel realizes what’s going on, he’s in too deep to easily extract himself. Griffith makes an interesting villain, much cleverer than the brutish John, who is nonetheless more entertaining to watch. At this point, the man who seemed so threatening in the first movie just comes across as pathetic, and his over-the-top outbursts pose little genuine threat.

Karate Kid III is the campiest of the trilogy and the least charming. It’s a movie that doesn’t have a lot of reason to exist, except that trilogies seemed to be the big thing in the '80s (and we know this is the 1980s because Daniel feels the need to remind us of this fact in every installment). Because Mr. Miyagi is so consistently wonderful, it’s still a thoroughly watchable film, but from Daniel’s love interest, a considerate potter named Jessica (Robyn Lively), to the challenges facing him, it all just feels like old territory with more angst. If you’ve seen the first two films, by all means check out the third, but don’t expect the conclusion of the trilogy to quite measure up to its beginning and middle.

Karate Kid * Karate Kid II


Recommend this product? Yes


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