"Wax on, wax off." Truer words have never been spoke (well, actually they probably have. Oh well.) Anyways, "The Karate Kid" still remains rather fresh in the minds of many - apparently fresh enough to re-start the franchise this Summer with a new "Karate Kid" entry.
As for the original, it starred Ralph Macchio as Daniel, a teen forced to move with his mother to California from Jersey. While moving into a new school is always difficult, Daniel has it particularly rough when he crosses paths with Johnny (William Zabka) - leader of the Cobra Kai gang. Johnny becomes furious when he sees Daniel with Ali (an early Elizabeth Shue), his former girlfriend.
When Johnny won't stop, Daniel realizes that he'll have to take measures into his own hands, and he finds the solution in an unlikely place: Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), the janitor at Daniel's apartment complex, who also manages to know a thing or thousand about the martial arts.
The movie then touches the expected bases - the training montages, the defeats and the triumphs (not to mention the memorable lines) on the way towards the inevitable match where the underdog goes up against the favorite. The film certainly doesn't shy away from standard elements of the genre, but the film's performances go a long way, while Macchio and Morita are also marvelous together, and Shue (and whatever happened to Elizabeth Shue?) is enjoyable in a small role.
The movie looks more than a little dated at this point, but in a way that's actually rather charming more than anything. I haven't seen "Karate Kid" for ages, but the picture still manages to be a fine underdog sports flick years later, with some good messages and a few deep thoughts throughout.
VIDEO: "Karate Kid" is presented in 1.85:1 (1080p/AVC) by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. While certainly not demo quality, this presentation was significantly stronger than I'd have expected from a movie over two decades old at this point. Sharpness and detail remained surprisingly good, as despite a few soft moments, the picture otherwise looked crisp and detailed.
Aside from improved clarity and detail, the picture also looked surprisingly fresh: while a few instances of minor wear-and-tear were seen, the picture looked cleaner than most films its age. A touch or two of edge enhancement and noise are spotted, but don't distract. Colors also proved surprising, looking rich and bright, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The DTS-HD 5.1 presentation sounded just fine. As one might expect from a movie of this age, there's little in the way of surround use, aside from things like crowd noise during a handful of scenes. Audio quality was fine for the era - music and dialogue could sound a touch thin at times, but otherwise seemed perfectly fine.
EXTRAS: director John G. Avildsen, writer Robert Mark Kamen, Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio offer an audio commentary for the film. The group does let a few stretches of silence go by, but otherwise pull together an enjoyable discussion of the production of the film and its legacy in the years since.
We also get the 2-part documentary, "The Way of the Karate Kid", which offers an excellent look into the making of the picture, as well as thoughts about performances, story and other aspects of the film. A series of shorter pieces - "Beyond the Form", "East Meets West: a Composer's Handbook" and "Life of Bonsai" are also included. Finally, "Blu-Pop" is a new pop-up trivia feature that also offers picture-in-picture material (new interviews w/Ralph Macchio and William Zabka.)
Final Thoughts: "Karate Kid" still remains a charming, engaging underdog sports drama years later, and the film gets a terrific presentation on this new Blu-Ray edition. The new Blu-Ray edition boasts fine audio/video quality, as well as an excellent set of supplements. Recommended.
The Film B+