"The Next Karate Kid" Talkback (Spoilers)

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Matt Zimmer
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The Next Karate Kid

Before we dig into this nonsense, let me point out for the record that the red-headed step-child of the franchise technically has more star power than all the previous movies put together. I wouldn't exactly call Michael Ironside an A-list actor or anything, but he and Hillary Swank are the only actors from these movies still getting regular, non-Cobra Kai related work. Just so we're clear before I destroy this movie.

This movie MUST be destroyed by me. It is begging for it. At its worst points I found it intolerable and excruciating. That is not outside of some of the TV shows I watch. And I know movies this bad exist elsewhere. I just don't tend to watch them.

Everything this movie COULD do wrong, it did wrong. Nothing speaks better to me about what an abject failure this movie made in attempting to connect to audiences than the scene where Julie's grandmother introduces Mr. Miyagi to her and she outright snubs him, making everyone in the audience loathe her right off the bat. This movie occurred during the perfect storm of bad movie trends. Back in the mid-1990's it was common to see kids act like total snots to adults in movies and TV because writers believed it made those kids relatable to the kids watching and endeared them to them. It always bugged the crap out of me instead, and this kind of storytelling was quietly (and if you ask me, not coincidentally) buried after Columbine and other school shootings began in earnest. But trying to appeal to obnoxious kids by having the new girl treat Mr. Miyagi like crap is working against every selling point the franchise ever had. It amazes me how ill-thought out and stupid the idea is. And when she yells at him that he can't even speak English, I could tell the white writer REALLY wanted to give one of the main characters that specific ugly line.

Everything about the movie is a mess and badly written. Basically when she first screams at her grandmother, she spills out her life story as if her grandmother doesn't already know it, because the writers believe the viewer and Mr. Miyagi should learn it at the same time, no matter how clunky and expositional it is, because the writers are just that bad at the jobs. Period.

Also the guy playing the teenage boyfriend Eric is clearly in his late 20's / early 30's. He looks like Luke Perry's grandfather.

The fact that she's a girl makes a LOT of things in the franchise feel uncomfortable, especially after MeToo. Daniel was always routinely threatened with getting beaten up. Her vague threats seem to hint that rape is a goal at the end of the some of the bullies' darker fantasies, which is not remotely entertaining to me. Also, not to put too fine a point on it, but I feel uncomfortable watching Mr. Miyagi teaching her to waltz, and making goo-goo eyes over how beautiful she looks before the dance. It's not Pat Morita's fault at all, but these things hit me differently now than they would have if I saw the movie in 1994.

I'm toying with giving a movie so bad I nearly shut it off at several points a zero grade. I'm gonna hold off on that. There were TWO things in the movie I liked, and I'll give it half a star for them both put together. The first thing I like sort of feeds into the creepiness with Miyagi I mentioned, but when he walks in on her getting dressed, I thought the fact that he was genuinely upset, embarrassed, and ashamed was interesting, because I think him being so visibly shaken, whatever this snotty girl says, endeared him to her. Even if she doesn't realize it yet. He feels MUCH worse than he should, which tells her he's all right. That's cool.

For some reason the brief bit with the Zen bowling and the monks was fun too, especially because they decided to teach it to the loud-mouthed guy to his delight. In these movies, the mouthy guy always gets the crap beaten out of him. I liked that this specific guy got a fun teaching moment instead.

But really, this is not just the worst of the movies. It's the only one of the movies I would declare outright terrible. And I'm not exactly giving either the first or the third a rave. But this was a whole new level of suck and storytelling and writing so incompetent, it's no wonder the franchise went into mothballs for nearly two decades. 1/2.
 

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