The Karate Kid — A Retrospective

Trapped in a house full of munchkins with a sinus headache and feeling decidedly less than lerious, I am reminded that I have yet to do a movie review of The Karate Kid.

I’m worried that once the night-time cold medication kicks in, I’ll be unable to remember all the details of the film that was such an integral part of my formative years. I must get it all down now. It may be hard to believe, but the following synopsical-review is from memory, with no source material of any kind. I have not seen the movie since I was a junior high student in Southern Alberta. Calgarians like sanding the floor and martial arts.

The film has an amazing cast including Elizabeth Shue and Daniel Laruso, also known as Daniel Son. According to the film, wise old Japanese men think every young boy is their son. It takes place in New Jersey or California. Come to think of it, everyone is blond in the movie and my mom is not blond and she’s from Jersey so either it takes place in California or it was directed by The Beach Boys or my mom is lying about her place of birth.

No, I think Daniel Son grew up in New Jersey and he moved to California with his mom in their station wagon so he could listen to Cruel Cruel Summer (not the Ace of Base version. It hadn’t been invented yet.) on a ghetto-blaster while people played soccer on the beach and ground his face into the sand.

His mom has a bad perm. Good then, bad in retrospect. Their station wagon has wood paneling and needs to be pushed to start. He works as a waiter/butler guy until he gets fired for throwing spaghetti on rich people and he’s skinny but highly attractive to 13-year old girls. These factors combine to make him a total loser and therefore the ideal underdog romantic leading man.

Come to think of it, I’ve always liked em skinny…and I’ve always liked em named Daniel.

So he gets beat up a lot. He walks to school. He gets beat up. He eats lunch. He gets beat up. He wears the coolest Halloween costume in history (a bubble-blowing shower stall) and consequently gets massacred. Everyone at his school goes around at night dressed up like skeletons and they’re all karate black belts at a local dojo where the sensei’s life’s work is to train evil high school skeleton bullies to rule the world.

They do.

Daniel-son gets saved by his apartment janitor. Oh. That also makes him a loser. He lives in an apartment and has come in contact with a janitor. I think you’re still okay if you happen to periodically rub shoulders with a butler but janitors are right out.

Luckily the janitor is a karate master who has been chillin’ in the basement, carving miniature shrubberies, eating flies with chopsticks and waiting for his next pupil to surface. He owns a beautiful home and a fleet of vintage cars but has no one to wax the cars, sand the floor or paint the fence. He sees Daniel as an ideal slave and sufficiently unwilling apprentice. It’s no fun to train a student who comes to you willingly. Half the joy of mentoring someone is humbling them into submission, while mumbling incoherent sound bites of ancient wisdom and watching them do all of your housework.

In some ways, I see The Karate Kid as a flawless parenting guide.

Another truth I found in this movie that’s served me well is that the best person to date is your boyfriend’s arch-nemesis. It ups the drama and you get to scream more. By the time the next movie comes around, you’ll probably be dating HIS nemesis so that he’s free to move to Japan and date Mr. Miyagi’s zucchini-farming relatives.

As he does his sanding, waxing and painting, Daniel-Son becomes a karate master and scores a sweet ride with which to take Elizabeth Shue on a date to a montage of amusement park rides.

My throat hurts.

He ends up facing down his enemies in the ring at some big tournament where the evil dojo master encourages his legion of Aryan-Nationesque foot soldiers to maim Daniel slowly so that he ends up like the black knight from Monte Python by the end, spurting blood and standing on one leg. The baddest high school dojo kid is encouraged to “SWEEP THE LEG” and others heckle to “put him in a body bag.”

Mr. Miyagi performs some black magic in the locker room and Daniel wins the fight, the respect and the girl, who proceeds to run him over with an overpowering hug. The skeletons cry, Mr. Miyagi almost smiles and someone in a suit gives Daniel Son the Stanley Cup.

A few more things I remember are that no one is impressed with Daniel Laruso’s fabulous BMX stylings. I’m not sure why. I think they forgot they were in the 80s. I also think there is something about Mr. Miyagi being a widowered WWII vet and I’m fairly sure someone burns his house to the ground. When this happens, Daniel Son may or may not yell “NOOOOOOOO!” and cry a lot.

It’s a good one. Rent it this weekend. No, I was not paid by The Karate Kid or any of its subsidiaries to write this post.

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