There are two Karate Kid movies, one good and one great. The first one is about a naive young man being taught valuable life lessons through karate, and the second one has him putting those lessons into action to save his neck. That's the saga, and it should have ended there. For all I know, there may have even been some idealistic young studio executive at Columbia Pictures who argued for not ripping off the fans and for stopping the series before it went too far. If that happened, I'm sure he's now an idealistic middle-aged waiter at Sizzler -- this is Hollywood. So after the success of Part II, we had the unintentionally comic Part III, which is so enjoyably over the top that I would be lying if I said I didn't like it. Unfortunately, I can't say the same thing of the next and final nail in the coffin, The Next Karate Kid. This one represents the breaking point where the director, screenwriter and star of the first three films said 'no' and the studio still said 'yes.'
But Miyagi comes back, right? Well, no. The oddest thing about The Next Karate Kid is that the character being played by Morita bears practically no resemblance to the dour, alcoholic handyman of the early films. Our Miyagi has been body-snatched and replaced by some kind of cloying, annoying fool with a weird inability to keep a straight face. When Miyagi first comes face to face with this film's 'Miyagi-bad-guy' -- one of the few resemblances of this film to the previous trilogy is that it reserves one bad guy for Miyagi and one for the kid -- he seems on the verge of a giggle fit. The bad guy he's facing is a fascist football coach for the local high-school, played by Michael Ironside. He's on the field, in the middle of delivering some kind of veiled invective against 'the enemy who live among us' when Miyagi innocently interrupts to ask for some help in finding a student he's there to pick up. Ironside's response -- to accuse him of trespassing and overtly threaten him -- is beyond ludicrous.