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THE KARATE KID, PART II. Directed by John Avildsen; written by Robert Mark Kamen, produced by Jerry Weintraub for Columbia. Starring Ralph Macchio and Noriyuki "Pat" Morita. Rated PG.


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The Karate Kid, Part II isn't any better than Part I. But it is almost as good, and that makes it well worth seeing for the whole family. If there are some unfortunates out there who missed the first movie, this one even gives you a quick, but adequate, synopsis.

The faults of the earlier movie are still in evidence. There's loads of sentimentality and almost too much contrivance. (Part II even calls up a convenient hurricane!) The plot is just as implausible and the good and bad guys are just as quickly identifiable. But the two stars are also just as charming, and the dialogue is as witty. This makes for a satisfying story nonetheless.

After surprising everyone to become Valley karate champion at the end of Part I (and the beginning of Part II), Daniel (Macchio) comes upon some hard times, becoming bereft of his girlfriend and, temporarily, his mom. However, that makes him free to accompany his teacher, Mr. Miyagi (Morita), to the older man's home in Okinawa.

It seems that when Mr. Miyagi (I can't call him just "Miyagi," as he's listed in the credits) left home 40 years ago, he sparked a feud. His opponent, and former best friend, Sato (Danny Kamekona), has been busy all these years amassing an enormous fortune. And waiting to appease his wounded pride by fighting Mr. Miyagi.

This movie is much more Mr. Miyagi's story than Daniel's. We see his ancestral home and the dojo where his father taught him karate. We can really appreciate the influences which molded this extraordinary character.

In constructing the engrossing story for their sequel, however, the moviemakers have had to engage in some narrative gymnastics. For the most part these tricks aren't objectionable. But a few do linger in the back of your mind.

Daniel and his right-side-of-the-tracks girlfriend (played by Elizabeth Shue) in Part I made such an appealing couple. I hate losing her with just a quick line about her falling for a college football player. Daniel's romantic interest in Part II (newcomer Tamiyn Tomita) is pretty. But somehow I never quite buy the relationship the way I did in the first movie.

Now, Mr. Miyagi's romantic interest here is different. It adds even more poignance and warmth to his character. But it also involves a certain inconsistency.

One of the most moving scenes in Part I showed Daniel discovering how Mr. Miyagi lost his wife. Ironically, while he was winning medals in Europe during World War II, she died in childbirth in an internment camp due to a lack of medical attention.

Now, in Part II, nothing is said about her. And Yukie (Nobu McCarthy) is presented as the one true love of Mr. Miyagi's life. This is not an absurd or impossible situation, to be sure. But I would have appreciated some acknowledgement of his wife's fate—out of respect, or something. (I guess this uneasiness shows how much I feel for these characters: they seem like real people to me.)

But these quibbles should deter no one who liked Part I from seeing Part II. It's a delightful movie with enough action and karate to keep the younger set interested, and a meaty story for the grown-ups.

July 9, 1986

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