The franchise is still kicking – but not very high – in The Next Karate Kid, in which a troubled teenage girl is transformed from bratty rebel into confident martial artist.
Boston dweller Louisa (Constance Towers) has her hands full with granddaughter Julie (Hilary Swank), whose parents were killed in a car crash. Having witnessed Julie’s swift reflexes in averting a near-accident, wise Mr Miyagi, played again by Noriyuki ‘Pat’ Morita, embarks on a low-key mission to rescue the floundering 17-year-old via karate. Wholesome apprenticeship tale has its scattered moments of humor and insight but lacks sustained verve.
Morita excells as one cool, compassionate dude who always finds a way to recycle conflict and adversity into spiritual growth. Athletic Swank is gratingly cranky at the outset and a tad too enthusiastic once she shapes up. Chris Conrad is appealing as the kindly hunk who admires Julie’s independent spirit. There’s not much karate action compared with previous three pix.