Plot: After his Cobra Kai students were defeated by hapless Daniel (Ralph Macchio), John Kreese (Martin Kove) has watched his enrollment drop off and now, he realizes the time has come to shut down the dojo. He drops off the keys to his good friend Terry (Thomas Ian Griffth), who refuses to let the Cobra Kai fade out, so he sends Kreese on a vacation and plots the ultimate revenge on Daniel. Terry presents himself to Daniel as a friend and fellow martial arts enthusiast, all while setting a plan into motion to force him to enter the All Valley Tournament once again. This plan includes infamous karate expert Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan), who torments Daniel to goad him into the tournament, but Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) tries to keep him centered. As Daniel tries to help Miyagi with a bonsai store, pursues a new romance with Jessica (Robyn Lively), and copes with Barnes’ abuse, will Terry’s plot avenge the Cobra Kai once and for all?
Entertainment Value: Daniel is back in this third installment in The Karate Kid series, a sequel that finds a new rival, a new girlfriend, and a new level of desperation for our poor hero. He has never been much of a winner, even when he wins, but in this movie Daniel really sinks to some new lows of being an unlikable crybaby, not to mention one terrible decision after another. The narrative has a familiar feel, but at least some effort is made to mix things up, with side threads about the bonsai store and Kreese’s convoluted vengeance. In other words, don’t expect much fresh blood in this one, but for fans of the series it hits the usual notes and the small attempts to liven things up are much appreciated. And the real draw here is just seeing the characters back in action, Miyagi and Daniel’s banter, and Kreese back in the fold. And on that front the movie more than delivers, as it bottles a little of the magic that’s left in the characters, even if the overall movie is a little forgettable. I appreciated the campier moments, especially from Thomas Ian Griffith, who gives us a fun, over the top villain to toy with the insufferable Daniel. I think there’s enough b movie vibes and nostalgia to make it worth a look for fans of the series, but everyone else will likely need to go in with lowered expectations.
As I said above, a big draw to this one is seeing the old characters dragged back out again and of course, Ralph Macchio is front and center. He was never an action hero or even all that likable as Daniel, but man, this material makes him such a baby at times, you want to see Terry’s mindfuckery work. His performance is fine and the character is in line with previous films, just with the whiny side amped up, perhaps to make goodbye a little easier. But if you’ve seen the other movies, you know what Daniel is about and this performance from Macchio is competent. Pat Morita turns his usual Miyagi effort, though his role is scaled down here and he seems more dismissive of Daniel, which makes sense, given his persona. He does what Miyagi needs to do and of course, he would return for The Next Karate Kid as well. The show stealer here is Thomas Ian Griffith as Terry, quite the humorous and charismatic villain who Griffith brings to life in grandiose, over the top fashion. I rooted for Terry more than Daniel, as at least Terry was likable for being such an asshole, while Daniel just weeped and cringed through the entire narrative. I’m always happy to see Robyn Lively as well, though she isn’t given much to do here. The cast also includes Martin Kove and Sean Kanan, while John G. Avildsen returns to direct.
The Disc: The Karate Kid Part III reaches Blu-ray from Mill Creek, as part of a double feature that also includes The Next Karate Kid. The visuals look passable here, but a new scan or remaster would be welcome. The image shows moderate detail improvements over the DVD versions, but nothing that will flip your wig. The colors and contrast are fine, however. The transfer might not be mind blowing, but the price is right on this set, so there’s solid value to be had.