When movies that you have no expectations for, come out of no where and sweep you up in a moment, you know you have been blessed with a perfect storm of serendipity. No film from 1984 epitomizes this more that “The Karate Kid”. It had a title that sounded like a kids cartoon show, it starred no one that anyone had heard of except the guy who played Arnold on “Happy Days”. It turned into a smash, making over $90 Million and landing in the number five spot for the year. [By the way, those of you following the blog through the year, this is the ninth film released so far in 1984 to make the top ten. So by mid-June 9 out of 10 of the top financial successes of the year have come out. All that is left is the film that will be number one and it is six months away.]
A lot of people have compared “the Karate Kid” to “Rocky” and that is understandable. Both films feature an underdog, fighting against a superior opponent while at the same time developing a love interest and being mentored by an older father figure. Oh yeah, they were also both directed by John G. Avildsen. Those comparisons are important but they are also superficial. “the Karate Kid” has a love story, but the central love story is the mentor relationship. Both films are about finding who you are and challenging the odds, but I think “The Karate Kid” is a lot more relateable for most people because the issues faced by Daniel LaRusso are the same ones faced by kids everyday. Kids start new schools, they don’t know the culture they are plopped down in, they are bullied and they are humiliated and they all find different ways to cope. “Rocky” is the better picture but The Karate Kid’s lessons are something more people can connect with.