77 / 100
Watchable Minutes : 96 / 126. If you would have told me that Karate Kid was over 2 hours long, I wouldn’t have believed you. After watching it, I think that it’s about 30 minutes too long and a lot of that has to do with the subpar romance arc.
Trailer Comparison : The trailer for Karate Kid starts off like any other 80s movie with a sweet spin kick and then all of a sudden Pat Morita comes in and starts spitting wisdom in every other clip. It does a good job of mixing in the high points with a solid voice over that isn’t too cliché. I think this is a solid trailer for a slightly above average movie.
Movie or Film : I’m tempted to put this into the film category but I don’t think that there’s enough here to really justify it. The wisdom of Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi is timeless and does hold a worthwhile message about peace and why fighting is wrong, but the rest of the movie kind of gets in it’s own way. If they swapped the pointless love story with more things like what it means to grow up in a strange city or to leave behind your family and friends, I think this would have been a strong film candidate.
- Run time : 2 hr 6 min
- Studio : Columbia Pictures
- Director : John G. Avildsen
- Where to Watch : Prime ($)
Daniel LaRusso and his mother have moved from New Jersey out to California for a new job and fresh start. After arriving in California and realizing that it is very different from what he is used to, Daniel unwittingly draws the attention of some local boys who are train regularly at a nearby dojo. Several beatings later and Daniel is at the end of his rope. During one altercation, Mr. Miyagi, the handyman at the LaRusso’s apartment building, intervenes and saves Daniel from further harm. Impressed at Mr. Miyagi’s skill, Daniel convinces him to teach him the ways of karate so he can defend himself from the other dojo members.
The last time I saw The Karate Kid, I was probably 10 years old and I really didn’t like it. I was enrolled in karate as a kid and it never really clicked with me. I wasn’t a super athletic kid and that translated into my enjoyment of karate, which then translated into my enjoyment of this movie the first time I saw it. However, after finishing Community and watching the episode where Chang plays Mr. Miyagi in a school play, I was reminded that it could be an enjoyable movie and wanted to give it another shot. I always knew that it was one of the all time classic movies, right up there with most of what John Hughes made. However, I feel that The Karate Kid has something that the Hughes movies don’t, and that’s the level of competition and slightly larger stakes than the typical teenage drama. It feels like a cross between Rocky and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which makes perfect sense because John Avildsen is the director of the original Rocky movie. However, where Hughes succeeded in creating teenage drama that is highly relatable, Avildsen couldn’t quite replicate that same formula with his story.
What I mean by that is that the story revolved too much around the love interest arc between Ali and Daniel. There are plenty of movies from the 80s that do love arcs way better than Karate Kid did and I think that making the romance between Ali and Daniel was a misstep. The movie would have been about 30 minutes shorter if all that was cut out (see above where I said it was too long) and it would have opened the door for Daniel to focus more on himself and learning to grow up and adapt to a new environment. I think that would have been a much more compelling story than what was on screen. We could have still had it all play out much the same as it did, with Daniel crossing paths with Johnny and simply defending some poor kid from Johnny’s wrath instead. It would have been that simple and I think it would have allowed us to focus more on the martial arts and learning to be content and at peace with one’s self. And I’m not saying that the romance arc was terrible, I’m just saying that it wasn’t really that impactful to the overall story I feel. Johnny and Ali’s interactions all ended up with Daniel on the outside and either stepping in or leaving. Daniel didn’t even treat Ali particularly well anyway until a few dates later so I can’t even really understand why she was so invested in him. Plus the writing and the direction given to Ralph Macchio and Elisabeth Shue didn’t really help the actors develop any real chemistry. It was passable, but it wasn’t great. Again, that’s on the writing and directing, not so much on Macchio or Shue, both of which did a fine job with what they were given. I enjoyed William Zabka as Johnny as well, I thought he was the right amount of arrogant, but weak at all the right moments. He looked like the classic bully with the dirtbike and satin jacket. And then the wonderful Noriyuki “Pat” Morita as Mr. Miyagi absolutely stole the show. The careful delivery of lines and sage wisdom followed by his excellent comedic chops was perfect (and award worthy too). I don’t believe that many movies are perfectly casted, but this one is damn near close to it.
The overall look and feel of The Karate Kid is pretty basic. I can’t think of anything particularly noteworthy to discuss other than it felt real and lived in. That’s pretty much the point because the background and environment of this movie didn’t really matter too much. The same goes for the sound and score. It was pretty standard with nothing special to really catch my attention, which I think is a pretty big issue. All it needed was a few awesome songs and it could have made a difference but there’s just nothing else killer about this movie to make it completely worthy of the classic status that it has attained.
With all the gripes I have about the romance arc and the poor soundtrack / visuals, I still think that the main story creates a pretty solid movie at a comfortable score of 77 / 100. The Karate Kid is a fun flashback to the 80s with a mostly unique and compelling story brought to life by veteran and rookie actors of the day. A number of iconic scenes and pieces of dialogue have stood the test of time and become permeant part of the social lexicon.
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