A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Next Karate Kid is a 1994 sequel in which a young Hilary Swank learns the ways of Mr. Miyagi's memorable teachings. The "Cobra Kai" of this movie is a violent group of alpha males who dominate their high school through bullying and beatdowns encouraged by an aggressively militant coach. Julie is sexually harassed by one of these guys, and while she's sent to the principal for having cigarettes in her purse, he suffers no consequences. One fight scene is extremely violent: A character is punched and kicked by several of the bad guys as his car is set on fire and explodes. In another scene, Miyagi is forced to defend himself and Julie when a group of drunks try to bully them; Miyagi turns these guys against each other, resulting in one guy knocking out the other with a tire iron to the head. However, there isn't very much actual karate in the movie. The few fight scenes are separated by lengthy sequences in which Zen Buddhist monks and Miyagi meditate, dance to a Cranberries song, and use Zen to win at bowling. It's worth mentioning that Miyagi is one of several Japanese-American veterans of World War II who are honored in a ceremony; the speaker at the event speaks of their bravery and valor, even as Japanese-Americans were being forced into internment camps.
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What's the story?
In this installment of the series, karate master Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) leaves his California home to attend a ceremony honoring WWII veterans like himself. There he meets the widow of an old army buddy whose orphaned 17-year-old granddaughter, Julie (Hilary Swank), is in perpetual trouble at her Boston high school. Miyagi thinks he can help. At school, Julie is stalked by a bullying gang of athletes. At a Buddhist monastery, Miyagi teaches the rebellious girl self-esteem and self-defense. He even shows her how to dance, in preparation for the upcoming prom. Julie is a changed person now. But the jock bullies are not. Under orders from their coach, they crash the prom and later beat Julie's boyfriend. Enter Julie and Miyagi; she uses her karate to defeat the lead bully, while Mr. Miyagi trashes the cruel adult.
Is it any good?
It's eager to please, but this sequel offers an unsuccessful mix of warm relationships, stark brutality, and hit 1990s rock songs. A couple of charming moments, like the dance-teaching scene, are undermined by a predictable, violence-ridden story. "I don't think you know anything about girls!" bleats a reckless female teenager, being straightened out by the martial-arts wisdom of a kindly old Japanese karate master. Folks behind this movie don't seem to know much about girls. Or boys. Or grown-ups. But they sure know how to stage a fight.
The gender change does this Karate Kid sequel little good. In fact, it adds a disturbing sexual threat when the slavering jocks chase Julie through the deserted high school at night. Newcomer Hilary Swank and most of her fellow high schoolers all look to be in their mid-20s. The gentle, cross-cultural, cross-generational friendship between Miyagi and his new student is undercut by inevitable brawls. Whether with creeps in the classroom or drunks at a gas station, fisticuffs are never far off.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: August 12, 1994
- On DVD or streaming: August 28, 2001
- Cast: Hilary Swank, Michael Ironside, Pat Morita
- Director: Christopher Cain
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: violence and some mild language
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