A Spock Chop to the Stupid Nerve.
THE KARATE KID PART III finds Daniel LaRusso conned into competing in a karate tournament, with a savage opponent who is no match for Daniel’s stunning mediocrity.
Daniel-san (Ralph Macchio) and Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) return to LA from Japan, and proceed with their boring life in Reseda, Miyagi convincing Daniel not to participate in any more karate tournaments. That’s what the teens of 1989 came to see: an old guy and his ambiguously-fey student cleaning out a warehouse to sell bonsai trees…
Movie opens with flashbacks from the first two KARATE KID films, focusing on sensei Kreese (Martin Kove), who then appears in this film’s prelude, broke and defeated, visiting his rich friend Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith, actually trained in Tae Kwon Do, Kenpo and kickboxing), to hand over ownership of his Cobra Kai dojo. Instead, to repay Kreese for saving his butt in Viet Nam “more times than I can count,” Silver lets Kreese keep the dojo, sends him on an all-expenses trip to Tahiti, and plots revenge on the men who broke his bro’s spirit – Miyagi and Daniel.
The one-line plot-fixes come at breakneck pace in the first few minutes: Daniel’s mother is once again written out of the story by “taking care of Uncle Louie” in Somewhere Else USA, asking Miyagi to room her son; no talk of money to feed the growing boy (who is actually 28, still looking 14); Daniel’s love interest from the last film, Kumiko, is going on a dance tour instead of following him to LA. Considering she was his “Glory Of Love” chick, I suspect that Daniel taking her loss with such equanimity is less about him being happy about her following her destiny, and more about Macchio not possessing the acting muscles to portray the correct distraught emotion.
Miyagi is broke, so Daniel uses the money they won in Okinawa to lease a property for a bonsai store, “with enough left over for renovations” – jesus christ! How much did they win?! Wasn’t it just about $1200? Oh, I forget, this is the 80s, when rent and renovations came to about $4.60.
Daniel Meets Cute the literal girl-next-door (Robyn Lively as Jessica), and she immediately Friend Zones him, saying she has a boyfriend out-of-state, yet goes out with Daniel dancing, jogging, rock climbing – everything but fucking. She’s no Elisabeth Shue. And she’s no actor either. Her only reason for being here is to give Daniel something to talk to, so that he’s not expositing info to himself like a mental patient. And talk he does. (Bad decision giving the most lines to the guy who can’t act.) This gimp just won’t shut up, babbling constantly to Miyagi, to Jessica, to anyone who’ll listen to his monotone whine. No wonder everyone who meets him wants to beat the shit out of him.
But I really wonder why the filmmakers (once again, writer Robert Mark Kamen, and director John G. Avildsen) avoid giving Daniel a mature love interest. Jessica disappears before the finale (her kitty aching for some real man-love, which she was never gonna find around dork Daniel), so in the climactic orchestra swell after Daniel invariably wins the stupid karate tournament, there’s no one whose arms he can run into, except Miyagi’s, and he yells and carries on uncomfortably around the embarrassed Miyagi until the freeze frame.
Terry Silver, though an imposing 6’5” with formidable skills and an “I’m-an-asshole” ponytail, presents himself as a dutiful karate student to Miyagi and Daniel, playing a long con, insinuating himself into their confidence by apologizing on behalf of Kreese, whom he reports as “dead.” While unbeknownst to Miyagi and Daniel, Silver has simultaneously employed karate badboy, Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan) and his idiotboy sidekick Snake (director’s son, Jonathan Avildsen, who so wants to be Sean Astin – aim high, bro!) to terrorize Daniel into competing in the tournament. The screenwriting is so dumbfuck at this point, regarding the rules of the comp and an application that Daniel refuses to sign, that it’s best to just watch the rest of the movie on drugs.
Daniel and Jessica rappel down a seaside cliff to get a bonsai – why? Because apparently, it’s worth $10,000 and “could set Miyagi up for life”… $10,000 can set you up for life? Oh, I forgot – it’s the 80s. But this unnecessary little side quest was simply to get Daniel in a life-threatening situation where Barnes could blackmail him to sign the application, which he does. Whatever drugs you’re using to watch the rest of this movie, the ridiculous plotting tells us the screenwriter is on better shit.
Since Miyagi made it clear he turned his back on competitive karate, Daniel is driven into the tutelage of Silver, who puts Daniel through pain, psychologically and physically. The only flaw in Silver’s plan was banking on Miyagi refusing to train Daniel. If Miyagi saw through the ruse and started training Daniel, none of Silver’s pain would’ve transpired. The writers made Miyagi dumb for just this one plot point. (Whereas the writers themselves are actually dumb throughout the whole screenplay.)
Barnes and Snake attack Daniel many times, and for a guy who blabs so much, Daniel never says a word to Miyagi about the terrorist attacks – until Silver, Kreese and Barnes all jump Daniel in a dojo, laughing like cartoon hyenas, whereupon Miyagi’s stuntman kicks all their asses. After being beaten, THEY laugh at Miyagi like THEY won! And when Miyagi tells Daniel he will now train him to combat these hyenas, they laugh even more – What is the matter with you morons? The guy whose stuntman just kicked your asses is going to train his boy to fight your overacting jackass. If that doesn’t make you break out in a cold sweat, you need to stop with the drugs that are making you laugh like that.
If BACK TO THE FUTURE, THE GODFATHER and THE DARK KNIGHT are some of the best trilogies ever committed to film, then surely THE KARATE KID trilogy is one of the worst ever vomited onto celluloid. The 2018 resurrection of these characters in the excellent COBRA KAI series has garnered some retrospective love for the original films, but that doesn’t change these scripts that repeat themselves, meander and make no sense, or the dialogue that a 10-year-old might think is sophisticated, or the cartoon villains, one-dimensional heroes, and a lead actor that brings it all crashing down with his utter lack of acting ability!
The message is clear: the best way to win a karate tournament is to be Friend Zoned.