Ten years after THE KARATE KID cleaned up at the box office, its producers are still trying to milk the concept, despite two disappointing sequels. With Ralph Macchio, the original karate "kid," well into his 30s, it was time for Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki "Pat" Morita) to find a new pupil.
The twist here is that the kid is a girl (Hilary Swank), and though she displays athletic prowess to rival her predecessor, this bland installment failed to kick butt at the box office.
Miyagi visits Louisa Pierce (Constance Towers), the widow of an old war buddy, and finds her exasperated with her defiant 17-year-old granddaughter, Julie (Swank). Julie has been bitter and rebellious since the accidental death of her parents. Miyagi suggests that Louise take a vacation and leave
Julie in his care. Despite being unaccustomed to dealing with girls ("Boys easier," he sighs), Miyagi gently tries to steer Julie in the right direction. She is resentful of his interference and pays him no more heed than she did her grandmother. Julie softens only in the presence of Angel, an
injured hawk whom she secretly boards on the roof of her school.
At school, Julie is bullied by Ned (Michael Cavalieri), the star member of the "Alpha Elite," jocks who monitor the school under the authority of tyrannical Colonel Dugan (Michael Ironside). She is befriended by Eric (Chris Conrad), an Alpha Elite member who eventually quits the group because he
disagrees with their menacing methods. During a late-night visit to the school to feed Angel, Julie is surprised by Ned, who attempts to rape her. She narrowly escapes but is spied by police when fleeing from the school, and is subsequently suspended. As a child, Julie was taught karate by her
father, who was taught by his father, who was taught by Miyagi. She asks Miyagi for a refresher course and the two spend Julie's suspension at a monastery, where, in addition to karate, Julie learns to respect herself and all living creatures. By the time she returns to school, she is no longer
sullen and combative. She sets Angel free and concerns herself with her budding romance with Eric, and the upcoming prom.
On prom night, Eric is savagely beaten by Ned and the rest of Dugan's gang, as Dugan cheers them on. Though he previously cautioned Julie that "fighting no good," Miyagi agrees that the time has come for her to fight, and she defeats Ned. Next Miyagi takes on Dugan and defeats him easily,
disillusioning his followers and putting an end to Dugan's reign at the school.
Overlong and utterly predictable, THE NEXT KARATE KID offers little excitement, even in its culminating fight sequence. The script's flaws are apparent from the beginning, when exposition is clumsily handled (Julie is actually given a speech that begins "ever since my parents were killed in that
car accident and I had to come live with you ..."). The engaging leads help somewhat, as do a couple of moments of inspired levity (mostly involving a group of fun-loving monks) and some genuinely touching scenes in which Miyagi displays paternal pride and affection for his young charge. Morita,
Oscar-nominated for his role in the original, is once again superb in a role which he invests with humor, warmth, and sagacity, despite having to speak the Charlie Chan-style pidgin that still passes for Asian-inflected English in Hollywood. Newcomer Swank is appealing and her transformation from
troubled loner to confident martial artist is well-handled. Towers disappears from the action without registering any impression and Conrad makes the most of a flat character. As in the previous installments, the villains are cartoonishly over-the-top. (Violence.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1994
- Rating: PG
- Review: Ten years after THE KARATE KID cleaned up at the box office, its producers are still trying to milk the concept, despite two disappointing sequels. With Ralph Macchio, the original karate "kid," well into his 30s, it was time for Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki "Pat"… (more)