The Karate Kid Review

Parents that watched these 1980s films when they were younger must have some broken idea of how the world works. The number of children thrown into gym sessions or martial arts training on a whim of it beating up bullies and improving their quality of life must have squandered so many futures. That is six hours of taekwondo in the back of a mind that’ll just never use it. John G. Avildsen may compare two or three generations against one another, but The Karate Kid will cut through more for its one or two iconic lines, the ones that steal away from just how dumb a feature Avildsen has made, and how demented a lead character Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) is.

At least it is fun in that homely, settling into America feel. A new home for LaRusso and company gives him the chance to interact with new hobbies and people he’d not have found had it not been for this adventurous desire and inability to not wander into unmarked doors, bothering repairmen who are secretly experts in martial arts. Naturally, a struggle to fit in with the group that clashes with one another over trivial matters does not take all that kindly to the boy who wants to make sure radios are not broken. The fight scenes are predictably macho and very telling of the times, which is a nice way of saying they’re embarrassingly poor and pumped full of terrible music and awful zingers.

Repellent those may be, there is at least a heart to The Karate Kid, one that is lacking in the consumer culture of the current era. Whether that is a decent trade-off to the dull surprises Pat Morita is behind is unknowable. His role as Mr. Miyagi is now iconic for one line here and another scene there. He picks flies from the air with chopsticks, teaches a bullied kid how to maim and kill an opponent and audiences will be hard-pressed to learn something, anything, about him in the meantime. Quite the achievement, honestly. It does little to accelerate any reasonable meaning behind The Karate Kid, but it does offer up a few meagre scenes of inspired confidence between the old master and young student.

Avildsen was the weaver of the American Dream. He charted its downfall with Save the Tiger, its rise with Rocky and its dumb realism with Rocky V. What The Karate Kid is, then, is the closest he got to producing the fight against it. What the American Dream did to people, how it poisoned them with big dreams of being a burly biker with little care for their fellow man. Even with that interpretation, it does not make The Karate Kid any good. It is battered around by the weak, dullard stereotypes of its generation. Not of caricatures or specific problems with its cast but its themes and weak scriptwriting. At least it settles in the bullied teenager idea well, and rising above the hate and all the positivity that oozes from learning a lethal form of combat to batter away bullies and learn something about the heart and soul in doing so. All in a day’s work for Avildsen, the man who embodied a dead dream.

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