American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
I think I have the message by now. It was contained in "The Karate Kid" (1984), which was a wonderful movie, and then it was recycled in "The Karate Kid, Part II." Now we have "The Karate Kid Part III," and still the message is the same. This material is wearing out its welcome. I have mastered all of the lessons "The Karate Kid" movies have to teach and all of the surprises they have to spring. I am also intimately familiar with the plot formula, so that nothing in this third film comes as the faintest surprise. Perhaps it is time, as Mr. Miyagi might say, to study something else.
The purpose of a sequel is allegedly to continue the original story, to tell us more about some characters we have already encountered. The problem with most movie sequels is that they don't continue the original story, they repeat it. They take the same conflicts, the same problems and sometimes even the same dialogue, and they try to fool us into thinking we're seeing a new movie. "The Karate Kid Part III" was made in 1989, but all of the original thinking on this movie took place five years ago. The same director, the same writer and most of the same stars are back again - to do the same things.
In the first movie, we had the pleasure of meeting for the first time one of the genuinely interesting characters of recent movies, Mr. Miyagi, a Japanese-American janitor whose secret life included mastery of the practice and philosophy of karate, and who was a wise philosopher with a foolish love for restoring old cars. As he gradually revealed himself to Daniel, the "karate kid," we met him too, and it was a pleasure to guess his secrets and be taught some of his mysteries. That first movie had an attitude about karate, and life.
The second film, which transferred part of the story to Japan, had interesting locales and a pretty girlfriend for the hero, but no new ideas about the plot, which involved Mr. Miyagi and his student being pushed so far by bad guys that they overcome their reluctance to fight. In this third film, Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) has been reduced to a standard element in a standard plot. And Daniel (Ralph Macchio) is no longer an interesting kid, but simply a series of predictable attitudes.