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Director: John G. Avildsen
Starring: Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Elisabeth Shue, Martin Kove, William Zabka
Rocky director John Avildsen shows once again that he knows how to make audiences stand up and cheer, with this warm and charming screenplay by Robert Kamen, who would go to write such works as Gladiator and The Fifth Element. Memorable characters wonderfully portrayed have turned this gentle drama about a young man who learns life long values from a reluctant karate instructor into a classic. Macchio seems awkward with the physical aspects of his role, but this adds to his underdog persona, and there is some great, often imitated dialog (Wax on. Wax off, sound familiar?) and even some pretty cool martial arts scenes, all wrapped up in a believable story with some good 80’s tunes.
High Schooler Daniel Larusso (Macchio, who was 22 looking 17) has just moved to the land of sunshine from Newark, but meeting a cute girl, Ali (Elisabeth Shue) also gains him an enemy in her karate expert ex-boyfriend, Johnny (William Zabka) and all his Cobra Kai buddies. Life is rough for young Mr. Larusso until he is rescued by the elderly caretaker of his building, Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita in a career role), who besides being pretty handy with bonsai trees, turns out to be a little Okinawan ninja too. Who knew? Soon Mr Miyagi is using old time training methods to prepare Daniel to stand up to the bullies at the upcoming All Valley Under 18 Karate Championship. Can he do it?
The Karate Kid and its immortal characters have become an often spoofed comedy target, and for two simple reasons. Its good and its as memorable a motion picture as any you are likely to see. It did spin off a series of deteriorating sequels that got worse and worse, but the first pic is first rate.It looks a little dated now, but with an excellent classic story and a stellar script, this one is still worth taking a shot at.