A kiddie version of Rocky (from the same director, John G Avildsen), in which boxing is replaced by karate. Macchio is Daniel, the weedy kid who’s just moved to town with his mother and spends his time drooling over gal pal Ali (Shue) when he isn’t being beaten up by local thugs. The bullies, it turns out, all train in karate with the sadistic John Kreese (Cagney and Lacey’s Martin Kove), whose motto is ‘no mercy’ (though it could easily be ‘beat up little guys who can’t fight back’). Luckily for our hero, there’s a local handyman named Mr Miyagi (Morita) who can train him in the ways of karate in time for an upcoming tournament and rousing chop-socky finale.
Packed with karate moves (great if you like that sort of thing, tedious if you don’t), this film has a heart thanks to the chemistry between Daniel and Mr Miyagi. There’s a solid moral, too, about strength and friendships, in between the ass-whuppin’. A fair sequel, The Karate Kid Part II (1986), carries on the themes of the first film while transplanting the action to Miyagi’s Okinawa home, while a third film, The Karate Kid Part III (1989), is pretty silly stuff that has Daniel and his mentor planning to open a bonsai shop! Finally, there is the marginally better The Next Karate Kid (1994), with a young Hilary Swank taking over as the kid wanting to be tough and strong under Miyagi’s guidance. (The 2010 The Karate Kid is completely different – and suitable for younger viewers than this one).
Is The Karate Kid 1984 suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
There is one particularly savage/scary beating.