Tuesday, February 27, 2018


by Rob DiCristino and Adam Riske
The review duo who cannot give you more than 35 percent ownership in our new dojos.

Adam: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Adam Riske.

Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.

Adam: This week, we honor a threequel from the absolutely loaded movie summer of 1989 (we’ll get back to that), The Karate Kid Part III. This movie came out at a time when sequels were more often of vastly declining quality from their original, and the third Karate Kid film is no exception. However, I think I’m like a lot of people who have nostalgia for The Karate Kid Part III because it was part of a popular IP during my formative years and this entry, in particular, aired very often on cable. The story this time is Daniel (a 28-year old Ralph Macchio, playing late-teens) and Mr. Miyagi return from Okinawa (and the events of The Karate Kid Part II) looking to lead the good life by opening Mr. Miyagi’s Little Trees, a store that sells just Bonsai Trees. Daniel has no plans of defending his title at the All Valley Karate Championship. He wants to be a business owner and hang out with Miyagi and Jessica, the girl who works at the pottery store across the street, played by Teen Witch star Robyn Lively.
Enter disgraced Cobra Kai Master John Kreese (Martin Kove), who plots his revenge on both Daniel and Miyagi at the behest of his Special Forces buddy, Terry Silver (a 27-year old Thomas Ian Griffith, playing late thirties) who takes time off from his toxic waste empire to focus entirely on his friend’s revenge. That’s not all! Terry recruits karate bad boy Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan) to terrorize Daniel and force him to enter the All Valley tournament. The plan is to destroy Daniel mentally and physically while taking his title, hurt Miyagi emotionally through Daniel, and resurrect the Cobra Kai. Upon rewatch, I love this movie. I’ll go into more soon, but this is prime-time ‘80s cheese with fantastic villains and charmingly goofy details. What do you think, Rob? And do you have much history with this franchise and entry?

Rob: This will be an interesting conversation because, upon reflection, I’m positive this was my first time seeing The Karate Kid Part III. I’ve seen the first film and have hazy memories of the second, but I feel like I would have remembered Miyagi and Daniel Open a Garden Store. You don’t forget that. I had a ton of fun with it, though, as much as I’m willing to admit that it’s not a great movie. It comes from the Last Crusade school of second sequels — safe and predictable, relying largely on iconography and character beats from the original. But it works. I really enjoyed how hard Ralph Macchio goes for it; his enthusiasm about macaroni and cheese had me laughing out loud. “I was raised on mac and cheese!” Who wasn’t? Thomas Ian Griffith, too. I’d like to offer that the intensity of the performances in this movie are inversely proportional to the actual stakes of the plot. Kreese wants revenge on Daniel, so he recruits Silver, who hires Barnes, The Bad Boy of Karate, to intimidate Daniel into defending his title while Silver pretends to be on Daniel’s side and teaches him to brutalize his opponent so that he gets disqualified? With Daniel defeated and Barnes installed as champion, they can now build Cobra Kai into a franchise? Do I have that right? Does Miyagi have a competing franchise? Daniel had to be almost murdered before he decided to defend his title. He just wanted to put trees in pots. Who gives a shit? Did Daniel quitting Silver’s dojo ruin their plan or help it? That whole thing is like the “How do you like them apples?” joke in Good Will Hunting. “Wait, what? Um, okay man. I guess you...got me?”
I like when Daniel goes on a date with Jessica, who immediately tells him that she got back together with her boyfriend and that he’s got no shot with her, which cuts all the tension introduced in the previous scene. He’s cool with it though, because this is that kind of movie. She doesn’t even stay to see him fight. I liked the bonsai tree as a metaphor for Danny’s emotional state. It was cracked in half, you see. Shit’s deep. I found it touching when Miyagi — who had been punking Daniel relentlessly and refusing to train him — laments their lost connection as if Daniel rejected him. I also love that no one ever needed to sit Daniel down and tell him what he was doing wrong. He kept getting there on his own: “Why am I doing this?” “I’m such a jackass!” “I ruined everything!” His character development was built-in! This movie is special.

Adam: You’ve introduced so many things I want to comment on. As you said, this movie is special. Ok, first the store, I’m fully convinced Daniel thinks you buy twenty plants, sell them and then the store is done and a successful business. This doesn’t seem like a long-lasting venture. They have zero inventory most of the time. Macchio is tremendously entertaining in this movie. He always had a wide-eyed energy to him in this series but my goodness is he manic in this movie. This dude feels everything. The macaroni and cheese scene is a perfect example. He over commits to every emotion. It’s great. However, if you step back and think about it, it really sucks that he just wanted to help his friend live out a retirement dream (which is a weird story to hang a movie on) and he’s knocked down for it every step of the way. I get Daniel’s frustration.
As for the strange Daniel and Jessica relationship, I think that was borne out of on-set circumstances. I read that Macchio was newly married and wanted to have a platonic friendship with Lively because he didn’t want to make his wife mad at him or something. I’m guessing they had a different idea for her character, Macchio made a power move and then the filmmakers sort of wrote her out of the movie because they didn’t know what to do with her. Just my theory. My favorite part of this movie are the villains. By no means do I think Thomas Ian Griffith is giving an award-worthy performance, but man does he chew the scenery like no other. I love everything about his character: his brazen business dealings, his inability to keep a straight face when he’s being nice, his laissez faire attitude of throwing around money and dojo franchising. He brings so much energy to the movie it otherwise wouldn’t have had. I also love these side villains. Mike Barnes is just okay in a Sean Penn kind of way, but man do I love Snake Silver (played by director John G. Avildsen’s son), who is one of Barnes’ assigned sidekicks. There’s a line that Griffith has to Snake that sums it all up (I’m paraphrasing): “If you want to be a bad boy in L.A., Snake’s the guy to be it with. Isn’t that right Snake?” Snake answers “YOU KNOW IT!” I love these guys.

Am I crazy or is their revenge plot impressive in its level of planning and detail? The revenge plot is something you would need a PowerPoint presentation to keep track of with all of its objectives and tactics. Also, don’t you just love the cameo of Daniel’s mother with Uncle Louie, who looks like he’s dying in a Warner Bros. cartoon? As I’ve gotten older, she’s kinda hot, too. Other things I love about this movie: when John Kreese reveals himself to be alive to Daniel by jumping out of the darkness like he’s a scare actor at a haunted house, the children at the tournament who are pro-Cobra Kai for no reason (maybe they just dislike Daniel?) and how the movie ends on Daniel winning the tournament and sort of leaves the Daniel-Miyagi strain unresolved. The previous movies end on the same beat, but this is the end of the Daniel-Miyagi trilogy and my movie sense is that it needs to end on a heart-to-heart moment between the two guys post-tournament.
Rob: I knew as soon as Daniel went in for that extended hug that this movie was going to end on a freeze-frame, which I agree really kills any chance at a proper conclusion to their story. Maybe a nice denouement with them behind the counter of the now-flourishing bonsai store? Jessica walks in and smiles at Daniel while Miyagi tends to the healed tree? Something cute like that. Also, fun fact: Randee Heller (Mrs. Larusso) would go on to play Don Draper’s secretary Mrs. Blankenship on Mad Men. She’s incredibly hot on that show. Don’t bother Googling. Just trust me.

As to the revenge plot: Remember that part where Barnes storms into Miyagi’s backyard to fuck with Daniel just as Silver arrives with his book on leg sweeping (a book I desperately want to read, by the way)? I can imagine them practicing that out on the street: “Okay, when you hear me shout, come storming in.” “I’m gonna hit you. No, wait. I’m gonna sweep the leg.” “Okay, not too hard, okay?” “Okay.” Later: “Kreese, stand behind that life-size standee of yourself.” “For how long?” “Come on. It’s going to be great. You’ll know when it’s time.” “Hey, you’re the toxic waste guy, right? You don’t get to that position by being wrong.” I heard there’s an upcoming TV series about the Cobra Kai gang. I hope it’s full of stuff like this.

So, yeah. I really like The Karate Kid Part III.

Adam: That Cobra Kai show is going to be on YouTube Red. I will probably subscribe to YouTube Red to watch it. I have a couple of questions for you but a few throwaway comments as well so I’ll get that out of the way first: 1) I met Ralph Macchio at a con once and it is one of the best celebrity interactions I’ve ever had. I asked him about Thomas Ian Griffith and if he was intimidating on set. Macchio was like (scoffing), “He’s a musical theatre guy!” I also asked Macchio about Elisabeth Shue and he was basically like “Oh, man!” Altogether, I talked to him for maybe a minute. I stepped out of line and two guys behind me said to me “Wow. He talked to you for a really long time.” I said to them “Yeah, well I’m a really good person” and I walked away like a total badass. 2) I had a weird thing with these Karate Kid movies when I was young where I wanted to re-enact certain scenes. I put ketchup all over my fists once so they looked bloody like John Kreese and I also wanted to take a bowl of water, throw some powder in there and soak my foot to heal it from leg sweeping injuries. I was a weird kid. I definitely did that crane crap, too. 3) I googled Mad Men Mrs. Larusso and you tricked me. She’s cute, don’t get me wrong, but I was expecting her to be another Jessica Pare or something.
Questions for you:
1. Can I get your help when we’re older in plotting an elaborate revenge on my behalf?
2. Give these other 1989 sequels a Mark Ahn or Mark Off:
a. Back to the Future Part II
b. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
c. Ghostbusters II
d. Halloween 5: The Return of Michael Myers
e. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
f. Lethal Weapon 2
g. License to Kill
h. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
i. A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child
j. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

I would give a Mark Ahn to Back to the Future II, Indy 3, Lethal Weapon 2, Christmas Vacation and NOES 5.

Rob: 1) Yes, so much so that I’d be insulted if you asked anyone else. 2) Same, except I’m Mark Ahn on Licence to Kill (you’ll find out why this week, or you already have depending on when this runs). I’m really close on Ghostbusters II, but it’s still Mark Off. Back to the Future II is purely a nostalgia choice. That movie has huge problems, but it taught me a ton about how movies are made, so I can’t deny my love for it. The most important Mark Ahn today, though, is The Karate Kid Part III.
Adam: Of course. I am a big old Mark Ahn on The Karate Kid Part III. I’m excited to read your column on Licence to Kill. I have some nostalgia for it because it was my first Bond movie but I mostly just dig the first hour or so. I was taken aback when I watched it last by how much water/ocean it has. I rewatched Back to the Future II yesterday and agree with your sentiments. I texted Patrick about it as it went along because I had to comment on how stressful that movie is. It’s super well-made, but not much fun at all.

Everyone join us for F This Movie Fest 7 on Saturday. It’ll be a blast and you can talk to Rob and I just like Rob talks to me and I talk to him right here. It’ll be like Reserved Seating with YOU on the SET with US in 1989! Until next time...

Rob: These seats are reserved.

1 comment:

  1. I've currently let my Filmstruck sub lapse and yet I will likely sub to YouTube Red to watch Cobra Kai.

    Good column guys, you've actually made me want to rewatch Karate Kid part III.