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The Karate Kid (1984)

CRUMBLIES… 2 crumblies

My grandson made me watch this. Young Steve, my son, had made him watch it. And…



This is a relive-the-1980s-like-you’re-still-there movie. About teens.


Steve had assured me it is the story of a funny, warm, mysterious old karate master, Mr Miyagi. He lied. It’s the exhaustingly facile story of a teenage American (looking like he’s in his late 20s) moving to a new neighbourhood, falling for a full-on ’80s virgin (Elisabeth Shue who, disturbingly, seems to have a head twice the size of the boy and is heading for her thirties), and then having the crap repeatedly beaten out of him by the local karate club. Cos, you know, what with their New-Romantic-as-bastard approach to life, treating these martial arts as forms of attack not defence, and the guidance of Martin Kove on day release from Cagney & Lacey, these are real bad guys in a small small small domestic American world. So, someone has to become The Karate Kid.

And you know the rest. It’s the same ‘rest’ that made me give Steve the price of the ticket and a bus back in the 1980s. All signs are that this is a cliché-ridden bag of shite for the untrained, overly-testosterone teen-boy who thinks flirting is leaning on a girl and doing a crappy Travolta impression – and that you win in life by barking in bad people’s faces. Noble, stupid and, without any actual guile, in real life, dead.

Oh, it’s horrible. I passed much of the time complaining about Mr Miyagi (Pat Morito buying himself a place in franchise eternity). He’s the handyman at the new compartment block moved into by young Danny (Ralph Macchio giving high-wasted smart-mouth and an air of charm) and his ever-grinning mother Lucille (Randee Heller of hair, shoulder pads and, fucking hell, stop smiling). He is one of those not-a-steroetype-really stereotypes with a tragic backstory and who can deal with all the big words in English and none of the small ones. I’ll admit he’s stuffed full of knowledge, and I admired his attempts to teach a teen to defend himself by waxing on and off his car – and painting up and down his fence. But realistic? He’s supposed to be a teenage boy; he’s fine with up and down.

So – boy gets bullied, boy gets taught to pose on buckets by the sea, boy gets entered into karate competition against bad guys… Really. The plot is that familiar. There’s even a cringeworthy arc with the girl. Shue, waiting for a good script in other 1980s’ classics, gets pissed at the boy for some reason, but weakens to his crass flirting and – oh – the handy new car handed over by Mr Miyagi. So Shue’s on hand with Miyagi and still-grinning Mama come the final battle.

Guess who cheats? Guess who triumphs despite receiving a proper beating?

Go on – guess.

Don’t tell my boy Steve, or the grandson, but next time they come we’re watching a four hour epic about monks moving a brick with the power of their minds. I’m looking for crowd-funding.

You up for it?

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