The Next Karate Kid
The Next Karate Kid, originally released theatrically in 1994, was directed by Christopher Cain. The fourth and final film in the Karate Kid series, this installment takes a radical departure from the first three, in that Ralph "The Karate Kid" Macchio (Daniel Larusso) does not appear in the film. Pat Morita (Miyagi) does return however, and the film introduces Hilary Swank (Julie Pierce), Michael Ironside (Colonel Dugan), Chris Conrad (Eric), and Michael Cavalieri (Ned) to the series.
In Boston for the Presidential Special Unit Citation that was given to his WWII regiment, Miyagi visits with Louisa Pierce, the widowed wife of Jack Pierce, a soldier who had saved and befriended him in WWII. While there, Miyagi encounters Julie, the granddaughter of Louisa. Julie, whose parents died tragically in an auto accident, is filled with anger and explodes given the slightest provocation. Miyagi then offers to stay in Boston and help Julie, while Louisa returns to Miyagi's California home to relax. With Miyagi's guidance and help, Julie begins to overcome and control her anger, as well as learn karate. But her troubles aren't over, as Colonel Dugan, who runs her high school, and a band of paramilitary students are determined to make her life difficult.
Even though I really didn't like The Next Karate Kid when I first saw it several years ago, I figured I would give it another chance, and I'm glad that I did. The film ties in with the first three more than I remembered, though Daniel is only given the briefest of mention. I suppose it's just as well, as after Karate Kid Part III, only so much more could be done with Daniel. Though the main star here is, in my opinion, Pat Morita, Hilary Swank does a decent job as a teenager going through a myriad of difficulties, who learns, through Miyagi, a better way of living. It is better viewed as a coming of age story than a martial arts film, however, and in that aspect, it succeeds.
The Next Karate Kid is presented in both 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and, on the opposite side of the DVD, 1.33:1 full frame. The transfer looks terrific, with only some small specks that appear infrequently. Colors throughout are well saturated and vibrant, flesh tones are accurate, and blacks are quite good.
The Next Karate Kid is presented in Dolby 2.0 Surround in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. Surrounds are fairly limited throughout the picture, only slightly coming alive during action scenes. The film's excellent score, however, does do a great job filling out the surrounds. Dialogue is center-channel based with little to no directionality. Dialogue is crisp and clean throughout, with no distortion that I detected. Optional subtitles are also available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Thai, and Korean.
Extras include selected filmographies for Morita and Swank, trailers for Karate Kid Parts I & 2, Beverly Hills Ninja, Godzilla 2000, and Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles - The Pluto Campaign, and a DVD-Rom game. I was rather disappointed that the trailer for this film didn't make the disc.
Though the Next Karate Kid picks up a new lead and drops Daniel, it is nonetheless a good coming of age story with the "Karate Kid" feel. Fans should be pleased with the film's presentation on DVD, though extras specific to the film would have been nice. Newcomers should check the film out as a rental, though fans will want to consider a purchase. Recommended.