I loved the Karate Kid franchise. Still do as I have been enjoying Cobra Kai on Netflix. There was one of the four movies that I had not seen before and so The Next Karate Kid becomes the next film in the DailyView.
Hilary Swank is Julie, a troubled adolescent girl whose parents were killed in an accident. She lives in Boston with her grandmother (Constance Towers), who was the widow of one of Mr. Miyagi’s (Noriyuki “Pat” Morita) wartime friends. With the rebellious Julie causing trouble, Miyagi proposes that the grandmother go back to California and he would stay and help Julie work through her anger.
There are some really odd moments in this movie, which otherwise is the same basic story as the other Karate Kid movies. The only major change is that our main protagonist being trained by Mr. Miyagi is a girl instead of Daniel. However, the film does have a trip to a monastery to give us some life lessons with a group of monks.
Pat Morita is still great as Mr. Miyagi, a role he has clearly mastered after the previous three times he has played him. Still, he is limited by the script and the story of the film. It truly is nothing new here and the only times it shines is when we get Morita on screen. Of course, you can tell that he is not moving as well as he did in past movies as the karate Mr. Miyagi does really moves in slow motion or is filmed in tight, close-up shots.
Hilary Swank has seen better days as an actor. Here, she does not elevate the material above what it is. Her angry girl character is cliché and there is little depth to her performance.
Michael Ironside is the villainous PE teacher Dugan who runs the school’s elite team of bullies. Ironside is so over-the-top that he feels like a cartoon. He takes all of the characteristics of John Kreese from the first two movies and Terry Silver from Karate Kid III and mashes them up into Dugan.
They tried to keep the franchise viable, but they could not. There just was nothing new for the film to investigate. There are scenes that are literally the same as the previous movies, just with Hilary Swank inserted into them instead. That never is a good strategy for a successful movie.