Written by / 1/06/2014 / 1 Comment / , , , , , ,

WAXING ON THE ORIGINAL KARATE KID FRANCHISE

year: 1984 rating: ****
Although becoming somewhat of a punchline to authentic Martial Artists, you cannot deny the addictive pleasure of the KARATE KID franchise, which began with excellence and eventually dwindled to contrived fare by the late eighties, yet was always entertaining and, to this day, unarguably classic...

THE KARATE KID: With two big films, ROCKY and THE KARATE KID, director John G. Avildsen gets lost in the mix. And yet, what both iconic features have in common is obvious: An underdog trained by an elder with experience and he... they... win a big fight. But looking at two of the director's "deeper" movies before 1976: SAVE THE TIGER and JOE... And heck, even ROCKY for that matter: each has a character-driven soul pulsing throughout. And it's no different for the original KARATE KID. And sure there's some great action. Terrific fights. Even funny moments. And a sweet romance for good measure. But the friendship between Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita, and how it drives all the memorable stuff, is what makes this film dynamic and provides another signature gem for the director who, like he did with the Philly Southpaw story, puts a little art-house into a big blockbuster.

year: 1986 rating: ***
THE KARATE KID PART II: Very uneven sequel but not bad either. Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita travel to Okinawa where Morita's father is dying. Morita's former best friend turned rival, the owner of the village, wants him dead while his bully nephew picks on "Daniel" who falls for a local girl.

There are a few good confrontations between The Kid and the bullies but the love story drags, and anything dealing with the town's traditions keeps things at a muddled pace.

The finale fight between Macchio and the nephew is completely ludicrous: like something from a "He Man" cartoon... this after the much anticipated battle between Morita and his rival ends because of a typhoon that brings them together, a total cop-out story wise.

year: 1989 rating: *1/2
THE KARATE KID PART III: One of the most unintentionally hilarious sequels of all time, this, the third outing in the franchise, begins nine months past the original as ruined Martin Kove, broke and without students, calls his Vietnam war buddy, an over-the-top pony-tailed ham who will stop at nothing to avenge his cohort.

We see as Morita and Ralph Macchio (twenty pounds heavier) get off the plane from the orient (from part 2) and are then thrust into a story that has to be seen to believed: as Morita opens a store selling Banzai Trees and Machio is bullied into competing for the tournament for... what logical reason is never made clear.

This is to the KK franchise what ROCKY IV was for that series: a completely unrealistic comic book that's so bad, it's horrendously awesome.

year: 1994 rating: **1/2
THE NEXT KARATE KID: With an exception of two horrific scenes: one involving monastery monks dancing to The Cranberries, or when the passive baldies later go bowling, this franchise reboot isn't that bad as a pre-fame Hillary Swank, a troubled teen in a hard-lined prep school, dodges advances of bullies endorsed by evil Michael Ironside.

Adding to her irritation is a new babysitter... Yeah that's right... It's Pat Morita as the iconic Mr. Miyagi, who doesn't know exactly how to tame a girl but eventually wins her over with his mellow wisdom and, at the monastery mentioned earlier, teaches her the between-the-lines karate style to kick bully-butt in the predictable conclusion.

THE NEXT KARATE KID is like a made-for-TV movie that has enough heart to override the abundant stupidity throughout.

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1 comment:

  1. I LOVED the original. Part II was a head scratcher. I didn't dislike it. Part III was just ridiculous. I don't know if its on the same awesomely bad level as Rocky IV though, Rocky IV is so awesomely quotable (but then so is Rocky III). I was and still am fascinated by Part III.

    I never saw the 're-boot' with our young Hillary Swank. I remember her doing the full interview circuit at the time.

    THE KARATE KID, iconic 80's.

    Great post.

    ReplyDelete

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