My Misspent Youth In Films...
The Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation
Directed by: Dale Schott
Starring: Maxine Miller, Pam Hyatt, Hadley Kay
Released: March 21, 1986
Directed by: John G. Avildsen
Starring: Pat Morita, Ralph Macchio, Pat E. Johnson
Released: June 20, 1986
What I Thought Then
We didn't own a copy of Care Bears II, but it was a frequent rental. I remember thinking it was very intense with the evil shapeshifting cloud that was haunting a summer camp, and while we watched the first Care Bears movie as well, this is the one that stands out in my memory. I don't know if I even saw The Karate Kid until very recently, but its sequel lived in our VCR and I remember a lot of the plot beats and dialog--plus that Peter Cetera song.
What I Think Now
The Care Bears Movie was a slap-dash affair that was simply there to draw attention to the new product line of toys: The Care Bear Cousins. It's rife with continuity errors and shoddy animation. It's especially fun to watch how spellings change on background elements in different shot angles. In all of these regards, the sequel is better. It actually does have a story, and it effectively retcons the previous movie out of existence. Someone clearly thought "if we're going to keep making these, we should at least put forth a little bit of effort." Despite the title it doesn't introduce a new generation, but rather an older one, which consists of only two new characters who are not the least bit interesting. The animation is still barely above TV quality, but at least they gave it a setting without signs in the background. Instead of a fair ground that runs all year round and has an evil castle, this one takes place at a summer camp with a door to an evil secret lair and literally no adults anywhere.
The loveably oafish bears have apparently spent their entire lives on the run from an evil cloud named Dark Heart that occasionally turns into a teenager who wears only red and promises other children power if they do evil tasks for him. I have to think there are at least a few shades of Satanic Panic threaded in there. Three of the campers are the "losers" who always have to do trash duty because they always lose footraces. One enters into a pact with Satan--I mean Dark Heart--and the others get whisked away to Care-A-Lot where they learn how to care by playing parent to the Care Bears and their Cousins who are all babies. One of the lessons of the movies is apparently that it's a good idea to try to take care of baby bears. Take heed campers! There's then a montage of the bears and cousins growing up, but meanwhile basically no time has passed at the camp. Anyway, redemptions are made, Dark Heart gets turned into a real boy after he learns how to care for someone else, and something something Care Bears stomach powers. It's pretty flimsy as movies go. There's just not much there there. (Where there, Care Bear?) But it's harmless and has some decent lessons, looking after baby bears notwithstanding. We showed it to the kids and they loved it.
The Karate Kid Part II was a staple of my childhood, particularly the long drives to visit grandparents. We set up a VCR with a tiny black-and-white TV in the back of our van so my siblings and I could watch movies during the 15-hour drive. Seeing it as an adult, I was immediately struck by how colorful it was, since I primarily remember it being drab and... well.. black-and-white. The first movie is a slow character study about a transplanted kid from Jersey trying to find his place in the world. This one moves a little bit quicker. But only a little bit. It's still very deliberately paced. There are a lot of sequences of characters exchanging tearful glances; I'm honestly a little surprised I had the attention span for it. The opening five minutes is a recap of pivotal sequences from the original, including the ending with the crane kick. I also remember being particularly fixated on whatever random girl runs up and hugs Daniel after he wins the tournament. It was only as an adult that I realized that it was Elizabeth Shue, who played the love interest in the first movie but was written out of this one so Daniel could fall in love again in Okinawa. (Don't feel too bad for her, though, since she did basically the same thing to Claudia Wells in the Back To The Future sequels.)
In this one, Mr. Miyagi's father is dying, so he and Danial--able to accompany him because of convenient plot contrivances--go to a bucolic Okinawan village where they can play out some tropes about honor and customs and portrayals of Asian culture that feel respectful for the 80s, I guess. Sato, Miyagi's childhood-friend-turned-rival played by Danny Kamekona, growls his way through the entire film like the villain in an American Ninja movie. And it doesn't help matters that everyone except Daniel speaks in pidgin English, even when he's not around. I understand not wanting to put subtitles in a family film, but it feels pretty dang cringey to modern ears. Despite that, there are some fun sequences and powerful performances. The movie largely hinges on Daniel and Miyagi's on-screen rapport, and it's a good thing that works because man is the rest of it corny. There's the tie-in song Glory Of Love by Peter Cetera that blares over the credits. Daniel goes to a sock-hop in Okinawa. The climax of the film is a duel to the death that is resolved by Daniel... honking someone's nose. Macchio sells the hell out of it, but it's still a bizarre moment.
The Cears Bears movies aren't very good, but they play well to children. The Karate Kid Part II was a reasonably enjoyable watch, but that was heavily tinged by nostalgia and it was not well-regarded by critics at its time, so unless you want to see some competitive nose-honking, probably give it a pass.