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. Leisurely and overly familiar pic should appeal to young teen girls, but won't be breaking any B.O. bricks with its bare hands. Pic opened in France, as well as Quebec, in advance of its U.S. opening, pushed back a few weeks to Sept. 9.

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. Leisurely and overly familiar pic should appeal to young teen girls, but won’t be breaking any B.O. bricks with its bare hands. Pic opened in France, as well as Quebec, in advance of its U.S. opening, pushed back a few weeks to Sept. 9.

Boston-dweller Louisa (Constance Towers) has her hands full with granddaughter Julie (Hilary Swank), whose parents were killed in a car crash. An indifferent student, Julie is permanently angry.

Having witnessed Julie’s swift reflexes in averting a near-accident, wise Mr. Miyagi (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.

Miyagi discovers that not only is “girl different than boy,” but Julie is a much more fully formed — and negative — personality than Ralph Macchio’s Daniel was when he came under Miyagi’s tutelage in the original installment.

Pic’s laudable values — always try to avoid a fight, respect all living things, respect yourself — are hammered home through solid if unscintillating examples that adapt serene Asian wisdom to modern Western dilemmas.

Thesps all hold their often stereotypic ground, but Morita excells as one cool, compassionatedude, 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 to previous three pix. , final showdown on prom night gives Julie the opportunity to artfully deck the jerk who’s been baiting her at school. ]

Nominally set in Boston, locations have a generic this-could-be-anywhere feel. Tech credits are fine.

The Next Karate Kid

(Teen action drama -- Color)

Production

A Columbia release of a Jerry Weintraub production. Produced by Weintraub. Executive producer, R. J. Louis. Directed by Christopher Cain. Screenplay, Mark Lee.

Crew

Camera (Technicolor), Laszlo Kovacs; editor, Ronald Roose; music, Bill Conti; production design, Walter P. Martishius; set decoration, Tracey A. Doyle; sound (Dolby), Andy Wiskes; stunt coordinator/martial arts choreographer, Pat E. Johnson; associate producer, Susan Ekines; assistant director, Nick Mastandrea; casting, Joy Todd. Reviewed at UCG Forum Horizon Cinema, Paris, Aug. 8, 1994. MPAA rating: PG. Running time: 104 min.

With

Mr. Miyagi ... Noriyuki (Pat) Morita Julie Pierce ... Hilary Swank Colonel Dugan ... Michael Ironside Louisa ... Constance Towers Eric ... Chris Conrad Abbot Monk ... Arsenio Trinidad Ned ... Michael Cavalieri

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