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KARATE KID III

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Review by Alex Haberstroh

Stars:   Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Thomas Ian Griffith, Robyn Lively
Director:  John G. Avildsen
Audio:  Dolby 2.0 (English, French) Dolby 2.0 Mono (Spanish, Portuguese)
Video: 
1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 4:3 Pan & Scan
Subtitles:  English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai
Studio:  Columbia Tri-Star
Features:  See Review
Length:  112 minutes
Release Date:  July 10, 2001

“You could have killed him couldn’t you?”
“Hai.” (yes)
“Then why didn’t you?”
“Because Daniel-San, for person with no forgiveness in heart, living even worse punishment than death.”
  

(Especially when it involves sitting through Karate Kid III another time)

Film **

In 1989, three years after the success of the first Karate Kid sequel and, greedy for more box office profits, the filmmakers threw caution to the wind and released the third entry of the Karate Kid series.

Expecting the profits to come flying in, filmmakers rubbed their hands together in glee, not knowing that the film would tank, and tank badly.

So what happened to the series that both critics and audiences alike cheered for?   Those involved with the project, as is often the case with sequels, most likely got complacent and thought that the public would buy into anything that had the Karate Kid label on it (strangely though, in most cases, sequels are horrible because filmmakers try to rush the product out immediately.  But in this case, there was a three-year gap between films, making the failure even more surprising, and even less forgivable). 

Unfortunately, for the third entry into the series, audiences saw what had once been a well-oiled machine turn into a heap of decaying rusted metal, full of visible problems and holes.   First, Karate Kid III’s plot is incredibly vapid and unimaginative.  As it’s told, Daniel and Miyagi return home from Japan just in time to face a new enemy, er, rather an “old” enemy from the original film, the evil Sensei of the Cobra-Kai dojo, who has now lost all of his students due to Mr. Miyagi and Daniel.  So we basically get to watch the original movie, with a lot worse scripting, horrid late-eighties music (at least in part one we had Banarama’s “Cruel Summer” and in part two Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love,” but even Pol Pot wouldn’t subject his people to the sort of mental torture that is part three’s soundtrack), and no Elizabeth Shue (instead we get some cheesy attempt at a quasi-romance story with some random redhead).  In essence, the filmmakers try to remake the formula of the original, and then decide to take out most of the good ingredients, thus ensuing a much darker, and more confused entry result. 

To make matters worse, the acting in this film is often so over the top it makes the viewer either laugh or squirm.  By this point, Morita and Macchio are too comfortable in their roles and virtually sleep walk through them, resulting in performances that seem like a satire of the two previous films, with Miyagi’s broken English becoming so atrocious it sounds like he’s trying to make fun of Japanese people, and Daniel bitching and crying every two seconds about how people pick on him.  Moreover, the actors that play the villains are so bad that they make the “acting” on the old Batman shows look like award winning material.  As well, I find it insulting to my intelligence that all the bad guys in films are usually businessmen or military guys (do they teach this in creativity 101 in film school?).   In this case, the villains are evil, racist Vietnam vets (how the writer could later go on to write something like Fifth Element shocks me).  

Finally, you know it’s a time to end the series when the Karate “Kid” is a chunky twenty-seven year old man with kids.  

Video **1/2

Included on the disc were both an anamorphic widescreen cut, and a “Pan & Scan” one.  The transfer suffers from a slightly washed out look in comparison to the previous disc (strange considering it should be the other way around).  Black levels are occasionally too dark, suffering from problems with grain.  Finally, the flesh tones occasionally suffer, looking highly pink in certain scenes.                                  

Audio **

The Dolby Digital 2.0 is not as good as the previous sequel, but then nothing about this disc really is.  Most of the sound deviates from the center channel, but there are moments where, as with the Karate Kid II, Bill Conti’s score fills the speakers.  While the transfer isn’t horrible, I would have preferred Columbia cleaning up the audio track and putting it into 5.1 instead of similar 2.0 tracks in Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

Supplements **

Included are filmographies, as well as trailers for everything that’s on the previous film’s disc: Karate Kid Parts I & II, Roughnecks: Starship Trooper Chronicles, and finally, Godzilla.

I would have liked a commentary track to hear what the director thought about the film in retrospect, but I guess the upside is that I didn’t have to sit through the film again.

Summary:

As I owned the previous two films, it’s nice to have this disc complete my collection, but other than that, this is the weakest by far of the three entries, and with sub par extras, and a mediocre audio and video transfer.  This one is best left on the shelf.