If you know me or you’ve read my column before, you may know that I love Ralph Macchio and The Karate Kid. You also may know that I don’t love The Karate Kid Part II so much. (If this is news to you, or you want to refresh your memory, you can read my articles on the first two movies here and here.) Today, I am here to cover yet another installment in The Karate Kid franchise, because I can’t just leave you hanging with one of the trilogy left. I apologize in advance for how confusing this article could get—just know that this movie made me feel just as confused, if not more so. Here’s the Bitchin’ Bio on The Karate Kid Part III. Find the trailer here.
Release Date: June 30, 1989
Synopsis: After faking his own death, disgraced Cobra Kai sensei John Kreese (Martin Kove) teams up with toxic waste magnate and dojo-owner Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith), as well as karate champion Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan), to exact revenge on Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) for his win at the 1984 All-Valley Under-18 Karate Tournament. When Mike and his goons threaten his life multiple times, Daniel enters the 1985 tournament against Mr. Miyagi’s (Pat Morita) wishes. Without the support of his mentor, Daniel begins to train with Terry, unaware of the man’s ulterior motives. Meanwhile, Daniel has his eye on a new girl (Robyn Lively as “Jessica Andrews”), and Mr. Miyagi works on opening a bonsai store.
How I Watched It: Netflix, but it’s already off the site! Good thing I have the DVDs.
Degrees of Kevin Bacon: 2, as far as I can tell. There are multiple ways to connect this movie to Kevin Bacon through Ralph Macchio’s role in The Outsiders (1983). I’ve mentioned before that Tom Cruise (“Steve Randle”), one of Macchio’s co-stars in the film, stars in A Few Good Men (1992) with Bacon, while another “Greaser,” Matt Dillon (“Dallas Winston”), is in two movies with him (Wild Things (1998), Loverboy (2005)).
Come For: Mr. Miyagi. In a crazy movie, Pat Morita manages to keep his character mostly grounded, reasonable, and likable, as he has been from the start of the franchise. This ability kept my love for the character flowing while the integrity of Daniel’s storylines crumbled around me.
Stay For: Good laughs at some of the most insane lines you will ever hear, delivered with perhaps too much gusto by a 28-year-old Ralph Macchio.
Had I Seen It? No. After finally watching (and intensely disliking) Part II in the spring, I had been dreading the task of watching Part III.
Did I Like It? I hated Part II, but The Karate Kid: Part III is not great either. Just as in the previous sequel, the stakes are incredibly high for Daniel for no apparent reason. People in this small portion of Los Angeles are so wild about under-18 karate that they are willing to continuously mount murder attempts against a boy (i.e., letting him and his friend dangle off a cliff and threatening to let go of their ropes and let them drop hundreds of feet down) when all he did was win a competition. Mind you, it’s a low-stakes competition that is not even statewide or regional, let alone national or international (not that that would excuse the behavior, but still)!
I understand that Mr. Miyagi stopping Kreese from killing one of his own students is a catalyst for the action of this film. However, the lengths that Kreese would go to in order to get back at Miyagi for stopping his near-manslaughter are, just like most of the aspects of this movie I’ve had to describe, INSANE!
Let’s talk about female characters, shall we? Consistent with the tradition of the first two Karate Kid movies, the series’ newest love interest, Jessica, experiences sexual harassment. Then, she is written out halfway through the movie and never mentioned again. Also, Mrs. LaRusso is once more absent from the action. After one scene of Daniel calling her while she takes care of his Uncle Louie in Newark, Daniel moves in with Mr. Miyagi and she is never mentioned again—despite the fact that Daniel has dropped out of school and used his college money to buy a store.
Speaking of “Mr. Miyagi’s Little Trees,” we never see the store come fully to fruition, which is irritating beyond belief. I don’t understand what the point of the storyline, or Jessica’s intertwined storyline as the girl making pots for the bonsai, contributes to the film since they are both hastily abandoned. In addition, I find it out of character that Mr. Miyagi would allow Daniel, a poor teenager, to give him all of his money and drop out of school.
For the most part, I did not like The Karate Kid Part III. It starts with the same weird recap opening as the second film and proceeds in its attempt to ride the coattails of The Karate Kid while simultaneously missing the whole point of the original: a small-scale, relatable, underdog story about bullying and finding balance. However, scenes like Daniel’s rambling about macaroni and cheese had me in fits of laughter (I luckily found a YouTube clip here!), while Kreese’s and Terry’s characters were impressive in their ability to keep me invested by making me genuinely angry.
In the end, I am glad I watched this film. Without it, I would feel incomplete in my The Karate Kid knowledge, and would have missed out on some of the references that appear in Cobra Kai (2018—), the direct Karate Kid sequel TV series.