Mister Miyagi takes Julie to a monastery in the middle of nowhere. She is surrounded by Asian monks and doesn’t really know what to do. When faced with a cockroach, she tries to kill it and alienates the monks around her and even her teacher. Through this, she learns that whether she thinks something is “stupid” or not, she must respect the rules and the culture of the people around her. Soon, she accepts these values and becomes friends with these monks. They learn to dance the way she does.
If you’re a 90’s kid like myself, you’ve probably seen The Karate Kid. That is, the 1984 film starring Ralph Macchio and Noriyuki Morita which spawned pop culture references like “sweep the leg” and “wax on, wax off.” The remarkably successful film was followed with two sequels and a 2010 remake with Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith.
Today, I’m here to talk about the 1994 entry The Next Karate Kid, the only film in the series to be made in the 1990’s. You probably missed it.
The Next Karate Kid is the first and only entry in the series to be female-led, an interesting note when there is a continuing trend towards more female-led movies in the 21st century. The film follows Julie, a trouble teenager whose parents died. She keeps getting in trouble at school and has a pet hawk. Mister Miyagi is an old friend of Julie’s dead grandfather, and offers his guidance to the teen whether she likes it or not. And obviously in the process she learns Karate.
The Next Karate Kid tells a story of understanding of differences and reconciliation. We never fight unless we are put in the position where there is no other option.
The Next Karate Kid retains a lot of what defined 1990’s films; bullies, romance, a prom and teenage angst – the general cringe that mars most 90’s films. In fact, the movie gets a lot of hate for its story and somewhat melodramatic villains. The entire franchise is typically marked with a stench of repetitiveness, but I would argue that it is simply misunderstood.
Miyagi’s character is Japanese and often talked down to. “You can’t even speak English,” Julie once says to him. There is a part of me that aches every time I watch that scene. Yet how can a person of Western background accept something that is different to them when they have not been taught to do so?
Ultimately, The Next Karate Kid is a special 90’s movie with a special place in my heart. I highly recommend that you check it out!