Review – The Karate Kid

The Karate Kid [1984]

Starring: Ralph Macchio, Noriyuki “Pat” Morita, Elizabeth Shue
Director: John G. Avildsen
Screenwriter: Robert Mark Kamen

I went back to watch The Karate Kid on a whim. I love watching old movies that I enjoyed when I was younger, but haven’t seen in years. The questions that always arise, from beginning to end of such a re-experiencing, is, “Does this film still work today? Does it still hold up? Was it still as enjoyable as when I first watched it all those years ago?” The answer to all three questions in this case is a resounding “Yes!” Yes, yes, yes! It surprised me, to say the least. But upon finishing The Karate Kid, I realized that it really isn’t so surprising after all. Here’s a film that takes a conventional, if not blatantly cliche concept, and does something truly magical.

The young Ralph Macchio plays Daniel, a kid who has just moved from Newark, New Jersey, to California. A wonderful change, most might think. But not for Daniel, who, in an attempt to defend a girl he likes, ends up making enemies with some local bullies. Who happen to know karate. As most everyone knows by now, Daniel becomes the pupil of the old Mr. Miyagi, played so wonderfully here by the late Pat Morita, who trains him in karate. We all know the now famous, “wax on, wax off.” Things of course go exactly the way that one would expect them to go. There are no real surprises.

But what makes The Karate Kid such a wonderful experience is not its plot, or its story, but its character. The relationship between Daniel and Mr. Miyagi is compelling, and its real. The chemistry between the two actors is nothing short of wonderful, and I ponder whether the film would have been as successful if such had not been the case. But it is the case, and we can’t help but love them for pulling it off.

The friendship that the two develop goes so much deeper than what’s at the surface, and those are the scenes that make this film so watchable, despite its conventionality. To say nothing of the scenes between Ralph Macchio and Elizabeth Shue, who plays his loves interest. Those scenes, so surprising between young actors, don’t feel forced. They, like the scenes between Macchio and Morita, feel real, and genuine. Because the actors invest in the material, so we do. And because of that, we find ourselves cheering for Daniel all the way to the end.

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One Response to Review – The Karate Kid

  1. David Miller says:

    I just saw the Karate Kid 3 recently for the first time on tv. This will go down as a classic series like Rocky, if it hasn’t already.

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