MOVIE REVIEW: “The Karate Kid” stars Ralph Macchio (The Outsiders, My Cousin Vinny), Pat Morita (Happy Days [TV series], Bloodsport 2), Elisabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas, Adventures in Babysitting), William Zabka (Hot Tub Time Machine, Back to School), Martin Kove (Rambo: First Blood Part II, Death Race 2000), Randee Heller (Bulworth, Mad Men [TV series]), Ron Thomas (Night Screams, The Big Bet), Rob Garrison (Prom Night, Brubaker), Chad McQueen (Firepower, Papertrail), and Tony O’Dell (Head of the Class [TV series], Otherworld [TV series]). It is directed by John G. Avildsen (Rocky, Lean on Me) and written by Robert Mark Kamen (The Fifth Element, Taken).
When Daniel (Macchio), a New Jersey kid having moved to California, gets bullied by some fellow students, he enlists the help of martial arts master Miyagi (Morita) to defend himself.
Here’s a preface for you: I watched this bad boy at the end of April. Only now am I writing up my analysis, which is rather spotty. Am I doing this classic a disservice by reviewing it based on faded memory? Perhaps. But when you watch to review, there’s no going back.
The 80’s is known for many classics, most of which I grew up on. However, I missed out on “The Karate Kid.” Not sure why. It was just not on, nor a vital element to my parents’ tastes in cinema. Sitting back to watch this with my youngest brother Maxwell, I was enveloped in the light that this iconic era bestowed. Pop tracks, wardrobe, and lingo that are wonderfully outdated are in full force, all swept away in the main element that is karate. A phenomenon in its time that can easily be resurrected upon watching this adventure, “Karate Kid” does a darned good job in convincing you that you’d like to learn the martial arts form too.
For those of you who don’t know, this flick is about a kid who gets help from an old martial artist to face some bullies. Fairly simple, but full of heart. If you haven’t seen it, you’ve seen its rip-offs or homages, paid forth by several movies out there. Even if you haven’t seen “The Karate Kid,” you know Miyagi’s methods. “Wax on, wax off.” It’s clever storytelling and quite iconic. Miyagi’s relationship with Daniel is the beating heart of this picture and one of the most endearing that I’ve seen in some time. I love the mentor role in cinema and the connection extrapolated from a master and padawan. The writer could have easily made Miyagi a caricature; some Asian dude who knows the moves and catches a few flies with chopsticks. But instead, we are given moments that reveal a broken man living in the loss of those he once loved. It’s these little things that push films the extra mile, and cement them in the hall of fame.
I really enjoyed this one. It’s kind of hard not to. What I predicted to be an action-packed venture full of karate moves was actually a more reflective, coming-of-age tale. Which, to be honest, I appreciated more so. The film is a slow burn when it comes to the karate side of things. It’s thirty minutes or so in that Daniel actually embarks on his journey to learn the craft, and from then on we see him do what appear to be household chores. Things only really pick up as we head closer to the third act, where the big match-up takes place. Sure, the story can wane from time to time, but in having Daniel not enact his full karate potential until the end, the journey is more satisfying. In the meanwhile, it is the relationships and bonds he forges that keep us engaged.
The performances in this are solid. Ralph Macchio plays an innocence that works really well. I loved his role as he was never really the dweeb that had to get hard. He was already tough; he just needed some skills to back the grit. Of course, Pat Morita’s Miyagi is a treat. His somber, peaceful approach is a pleasing contrast to Daniel, and in his dark moments he shines. The supporting cast that surround them are also fun. I loved the Cobra Kai (who now have a Netflix series). They’re the typical juiced punks looking to stir up trouble, and they do plenty of that. The aesthetic of their group and look of this movie overall feed into an entertaining experience that is sure to keep you hooked.
Overall, “The Karate Kid” is as you expect: pure 80’s fun. It’s an entertaining, endearing ride that has one of the most iconic friendships found in Daniel and Miyagi. The ending finisher move sticks with you, and the culture of karate only makes you want to go out and pick up the skill. There are moments where it can slow down, and the finale is done rather hastily (I would’ve loved more time in that arena, or at least the final match-up), but at the end of the day, “The Karate Kid” still lives up to its reputation. FINAL SCORE: 93%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer:
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