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A fatherless teenager faces his moment of truth in The Karate Kid. Daniel (Ralph Macchio) arrives in Los Angeles from the east coast and faces the difficult task of making new friends. However, he becomes the object of bullying by the Cobras, a menacing gang of karate students, when he strikes up a relationship with Ali (Elisabeth Shue), the Cobra leader's ex-girlfriend. Eager to fight back and impress his new girlfriend but afraid to confront the dangerous gang, Daniel asks his handyman Miyagi (Noriyuki 'Pat' Morita), whom he learns is a master of the martial arts, to teach him karate. Miyagi teaches Daniel that karate is a mastery over the self, mind, and body and that fighting is always the last answer to a problem. Under Miyagi's guidance, Daniel develops not only physical skills but also the faith and self-confidence to compete despite tremendous odds as he encounters the fight of his life in the exciting finale to this entertaining film.
John G. Avildsen not only directed Rocky, he tried remaking it over the years in a dozen different ways. One of them was this popular 1984 drama about a new kid (Ralph Macchio) in town targeted by karate-wielding bullies until he gets a new mentor: the handyman (Pat Morita) from his apartment building, who teaches him self-confidence and fighting skills. The screen partnership of Macchio's motor-mouth character and Morita's reserved father figure works well, and the script allows for the younger man to develop sympathy for the painful memories of his teacher. But the film's real engine, as with Rocky, is the fighting, and there's plenty of that. Elisabeth Shue is on board as the girl the klutzy Macchio dreams of winning. --Tom Keogh