Starring Ralph Machhio and Pat Morita, “The Karate Kid” (1984) was a surprise hit in a year that saw major blockbuster releases like “Ghostbusters,” “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “Beverly Hills Cop.”
Think about this for a second. “The Karate Kid” made more money than “Romancing the Stone,” “Footloose” and “Police Academy” in 1984. A story about a Jersey boy who moves to California with his mother, only to face bullying and rejection made it to No. 5 on the box office charts.
Actually, that sounds like a pretty cool movie if you throw in some karate, an evil karate instructor, and Elisabeth Shue as the love interest. Don’t forget to add a pinch of 1980s training scenes. If “Rocky” taught us anything, it was that a film that features a sport needs to have at least one training scene.
“The Karate Kid” is not only about a young kid who’s trying to find himself in unfamiliar territory, it’s about discovering new culture and learning to appreciate the beauty in its diversity. Karate is almost a backdrop to the real human stories going on in the film.
For instance, Daniel is feeling alone being raised by a single mother, and is getting his butt kicked by a group of karate-swinging bullies. What we love about him is that Daniel doesn’t give up.
After getting fed a few knuckle sandwiches, Daniel still has the nerve to try and woo Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue) from her abusive karate-chopping boyfriend Johnny, played by William Zabka. You gotta love that kind of moxie in a Jersey Kid.
“The Karate Kid” doesn’t quite find its soul until we meet the World War II veteran/handyman/karate master, Mr. Miyagi.
This brings us to Pat Morita. It can be argued that Morita’s brilliant performance as the wise karate master, Mr. Miyagi, was one of the greatest supporting performances of all time. Think about it.
Who hasn’t said “Wax on, wax off” in their lives? It was the “Show me the Money!” line of the 1980s. Cuba Gooding Jr. actually won the Oscar, while Morita had to take a back seat to F. Murray Abraham for his role as Salieri in 1984’s “Amadeus.” Abraham deserved the Oscar, but it just gives you an idea about how many quality films were released in 1984.
Miyagi is truly the heart and soul of “The Karate Kid.” Miyagi brings that fatherly influence into Daniel’s life at a time when he needs it most.
Miyagi teaches honor, respect, work ethic and, above all, how to kick Johnny’s butt and get the girl.
Thinking back on it as I write this, it’s really no surprise that the “The Karate Kid” was so successful. The film stands up to the test of time with universal themes that can touch any audience member.
The remake in 2010, starring Jackie Chan, was a respectable effor, but it never quite lived up to the original.
Lihu‘e Library Film Club
Janus Films present:
“Jules and Jim” (A French film that’s not for kids.) Saturday, Aug. 13, 7 p.m. at the Lihu‘e Library.
Call 241-3222 for more information.