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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Karate Kid, Part III (1989)

"Daniel-san, if karate used defend honor, defend life, karate mean something. If karate used to defend plastic metal trophy, karate no mean nothing. Understand?"
- Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: July 09, 2001

Stars: Ralph Macchio, Noriyuki "Pat" Morita
Other Stars: Thomas Ian Griffith, Martin Kove
Director: John G. Avildsen

MPAA Rating: PG for (mild karate violence and some language)
Run Time: 01h:52m:12s
Release Date: July 10, 2001
UPC: 043396059924
Genre: family


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- BBB C

DVD Review

I will admit I had apprehension as I sat down to view the new Columbia TriStar DVD release of The Karate Kid, Part III. I remembered 1984s' original Karate Kid as a surprisingly refreshing tale that used the study of Karate as a tool to help a troubled teen gain confidence and inner strength under the tutelage of an unconventional instructor who used goofy phrases like "Wax on, wax off" as a training technique. Never having felt compelled to watch the cleverly titled Karate Kid, Part II, I imagined that 1989s' Part III was probably just a weak, hollow carbon of the original.

Well, I have to admit I may have been wrong all these years.

The Karate Kid, Part III, aside from being burdened with one of the more uncreative sequel titles, is actually not a bad flick. This is not highbrow cinema, mind you, but a well made family film that continues the story of Daniel (Ralph Macchio), Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) and the use of Karate as a tool for personal growth. Director John G. Alvidsen is no slouch when it comes to underdog stories, having directed one of the granddaddy of all underdogs, Rocky, as well as both previous films in this series.

It is obvious Avildsen is comfortable with the main characters, and he literally picks up the story where Karate Kid, Part II left off, with Miyagi and Daniel arriving home in Los Angeles from Okinawa. I will admit I cheated by watching the included trailers for Karate Kid and Karate Kid, Part II, which provided a nice capsule summary, to refresh my memory and fill in some holes. This was helpful, otherwise it may have taken me a few minutes to get a grasp of what was actually going on during the early minutes of Part III. My memory just ain't what it used to be, and since I last saw Daniel and Miyagi about 17 years ago, I needed a better refresher course than Avildsen offers up during the opening scenes.

Morita and Macchio aren't required to give Shakespearian performances, but both actors are natural and likeable. Even though Macchio was around 28 when this film was shot, he was still able to easily pull off the role of teenaged Daniel, with a level of gee-whiz eagerness that never really dips into the realm of cloying overacting. The ever-youthful Macchio apparently suffers from the Dick Clark anti-aging disease, and will probably be playing twenty-somethings well into his fifties. Regrettably Miyagi is reduced to a one-trick pony in Part III, serving only to deliver bits of cryptic wisdom to Daniel, but Morita plays the character in a very low key manner, and by doing so steals every scene he is in.

The villains are painted in broad strokes, and it is never difficult to know who's a bad guy. Martin Kove reprises his baddie role from the first film as Kreese, the sadistic sensei of the Cobra Kai. But Kreese takes a backseat here to slicked-back, ponytailed Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith). Silver is a toxic-waste-dumping sleazeball, who just happens to be a former army buddy of Kreese, and masterminds a plan to get revenge on Daniel and Mr. Miyagi as retribution for their victory in the climactic karate tournament from the first Karate Kid. It is easy to know that the character of Silver is evil, because he has a maniacal laugh and a henchman named "Snake." Sean Kanen is Mike Barnes, the Žbad boy' of local karate, who needs to challenge current champ Daniel in the big tournament to make Silver's revenge complete.

It's hard to find films that are suitable for family viewing these days, as it seems that the limits of PG and PG-13 get stretched further each year. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a prude, far from it (my 10-year-old daughter Sammy has been watching a slightly edited version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show since she was five, but that's another story). I can forgive the weaknesses of the Karate Kid Part III plot, the one dimensional characters, in favor of it's place as a movie I can watch with my kid that tries hard to convey a positive message. I watched Part III with Sammy, and she liked it, despite her concern about "too much karate." The Karate fight scenes are fairly mild, in comparison to current PG films, and Avildsen smoothly funnels the message of being true to your beliefs, without being overly preachy. Some relatively tame swear words are used sporadically, but even those words are standard issue in PG films released today.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: Columbia has done another quality anamorphic transfer for a late 1980s' film. With one side of the disc the 1.85:1 widescreen, and the other the 1.33:1 full frame version, the viewing choice is yours. Regardless of your choice, the image you will find has a sharp and crisp color palette. The night scenes play well, with decent depth and black levels that are full. Edge enhancement is minimal, barely noticeable in certain scenes. I could not discern any nicks or dirt, so it seems Columbia used a better than average print to do the transfer.

The transfer of Karate Kid Part III looks very good, even though the occasional bad 1980s' fashions appear throughout.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Spanish, French, Portugueseyes


Audio Transfer Review: Despite the limits of 2-channel surround, the audio transfer on Karate Kid, Part III is more than adequate. This is not the type of film that would benefit from a Columbia TriStar remastered 5.1 mix. Dialogue remains anchored, and there is very little spatial imaging present. Considering that this release is primarily a dialogue dominant film, and a generally simple tale, the absence of more sophisticted surround effects is not a detriment at all. Bill Conti (Rocky) has put together another uplifting, motivational score, and it sounds full and effective throughout the film, especially when compared to some of the extremely dated sounding late 1980s' songs that pepper the soundtrack. The inclusion of multiple foreign language dubs is a nice plus.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Karate Kid, Karate Kid Part II, Godzilla 2000, Beverly Hills Ninja, Roughnecks: Starship Trooper Chronicles
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The extras are a little thin, even with the presence of five theatrical trailers for other films. The filmographies for Avildsen, Macchio, and Morita are nothing to drool over, and seem more like an attempt to puff up this release. On the plus side, the trailers for Karate Kid and Karate Kid Part II were helpful in providing a refresher course in the past history of Daniel and Miyagi, which allows a viewer to jump into Part III without having seen the previous two films recently, if at all. The multiple language subtitles are always a cool bonus, as far as I'm concerned, but I'm weird that way.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

I would recommend Karate Kid Part III, paired with the original, as a set of films that provide a strong message about overcoming adversity and doing "the right thing." Part III is not a great film by any means, but the story is told well, and the lead actors are pleasant enough. Like parts 1 and II, it's Rocky-lite, and director John G. Avildsen is more than qualified in that department. Most importantly, it's something my 10-year-old daughter and I could watch together, and talk about afterward. And that, my friends, is not a bad thing.

 


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