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Laura Reviews: The Karate Kid Movies

Is anyone else really pissed off that EVERYONE mistakes The Next Karate Kid with Karate Kid III? EVERYONE thinks it goes "Daniel-san, Daniel-san, Hilary Swank."

     First of all, the kid was played by Ralph Macchio. You should know that at least. You know who plays the girl, don't you? I don't remember the girl character's name either, so I'll forgive you for that. But you should know who plays Daniel-san.

     Second, and possibly more important, is that the Karate Kid trilogy is a distinct set of three movies, each leading into the other, starring Ralph Macchio and Noriyuki 'Pat' Morita. The Hilary Swank movie is not KKIV, either-- it's The NEXT Karate Kid.

     Much like the Star Wars series up to this point (I'm writing this before the release of Episode II), the KK trilogy goes, in order of goodness: II, I, III, and then the misfit (Phantom Menace for Star Wars, Next for Karate Kid). Few people remember the plot of II, let alone that III even exists, so let me recap for you gangling fools:

Karate Kid Like A New Hope for Star Wars, it's the first, it's the classic, and it's the one you've seen the most times. Unlike the first SW, it contains classic home repair scenes. "Wax on, wax off." "Aww, Mista MiYAgi..." Ralph Macchio's fresh-faced pseudo-Italian I-think-I-can-learn-karate-from-a-book antics make you stare stonily into your IBC. He shouldn't question his master so. I wish I had a sensei! Someone who knew what I was doing, even if I didn't. I'd WANT him to keep me in mystery. "Paint fence, sand patio, fill gas tank, file tax returns!" "Hai, sensei!"

Karate Kid II The Empire Strikes Back of the Karate Kid trilogy, KK2 picks up just where KK1 left off: the parking lot of the karate tournament. KK2 is awesome because Daniel-san, though still Rocky Balboa-esque in the speaking clarity department ("Yo, ahh..."), has learned by now that Mr. Miyagi knows what he's doing, and basically, he's fantastic. He doesn't question the master anymore. Also, Mr. Miyagi takes Daniel-san to Okinawa, and it's great. Daniel-san hooks up with a cute Japanese girl.

Karate Kid III With the same flowing transition as KK2, KK3 begins as Daniel-san and Mr. Miyagi step off the plan from Okinawa. KK3, while excellent, is my least favorite of the Karate Kid trilogy because Daniel-san betrays Mr. Miyagi's trust. He should know better by now. KK3 has more in common with the third in the Rocky series than the Star Wars trilogy: mumbly Italian guy is going to retire from fighting, but receives a challenge he can't refuse without losing face, and returns for one last fight despite his trainer's objections. That's where the similarity ends, though; Mr. Miyagi doesn't die. In fact, he returns in...

The Next Karate Kid With Daniel-san away at college, Mr. Miyagi is at a loose end. Until an old friend, the wife of a late war chum, offers to give him a house-sitting job. The catch: the house comes with a surly Hilary Swank. NKK by no means lives up to its predecessors, but it has its good moments. The gang of Buddhist monks, and of course lots of article-free fun with Mr. Miyagi.

     I recommend re-watching the Karate Kid movies, especially if you haven't seen them since you were twelve. You'd be surprised at how awesome they continue to be, even if you're not a pre-teen boy and it's not the 80s. They are actually quality films, and any serious student of the art of moving pictures should have at least one copy of all three in his or her film library.


- Laura