Karate Kid (1984)

“We make sacred pact. I promise teach karate to you, you promise learn. I say, you do, no questions.”

Karate Kid Poster

Synopsis:
A New Jersey teenager (Ralph Maccio) moves to California and falls in love with a beautiful blonde (Elizabeth Shue) whose thuggish ex-boyfriend (William Zabka) bullies him mercilessly. To prepare for fighting back, Danny (Macchio) is given karate lessons by an elderly handyman (Pat Morita) in his building, who teaches him that strength comes from within.

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Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary accurately describes this popular cult film as a “likable fairytale” about a “very likable teenager” who encounters “a few obstacles along the way before [he and his girlfriend] can live happily ever after.” He notes that, like Rocky (also directed by John Avildsen), this “extremely pleasing” film “has wit and sentimentality”, and makes you want to “cheer the underdog”, who will “do the impossible because he has a lot of heart and character”. The elements of the film that don’t work so well (i.e., Zabka’s one-dimensional “Aryan” baddie) are overshadowed by those that do — including fine central performances by Macchio and Morita (who was nominated for an Academy Award as best supporting actor), nice supporting work by Shue and Randee Heller (as Macchio’s mom, who Peary wishes “had a more significant part” — me, too), and countless memorable scenes (“Wax on… Wax off.”).

P.S. Interestingly, Peary notes near the end of his review that he wishes “Morita would dump Zabka’s sadistic coach in the garbage” — which is exactly how The Karate Kid, Part II (1986) (not listed in Peary’s book) begins…

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi
    Karate Kid Pat Morita
  • Ralph Maccio as Daniel
    Karate Kid Maccio
  • Elizabeth Shue as Ali
    Karate Kid Shue
  • Randee Heller as Danny’s mom
    Karate Kid Heller

Must See?
Yes, as a pleasing cult film.

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