Tuesday, February 22, 2011

POPped Time Warp: The Karate Kid


A few weeks ago I was hit with some nostalgia by a good friend of mine.  He manages a restaurant in Santa Monica and I got a text from him telling me that Martin Kove had just come in and he was geeking out.  For those of you that may not recognize the name, you'll know some dialogue of his.

"Sweep the leg."

He was John Kreese, or Sensei, in 'The Karate Kid'.  Being the dork that I am, I suggested that he send over one of his staff with a broom to clean up around the table.  He could then apologize and tell him that he was sent over to sweep the leg.  Yes, I suggested that.  Did he do it?  Of course not.  (Wuss.)

A few days later, 'The Karate Kid' was on and I couldn't help but keep it on. Sure, the movie was almost over, but I had to watch.  It's not just out of nostalgia that I watch.  (Although I do find myself remembering the summer my older brother and I went to Golf-N-Stuff over and over to play video games and ride the water slide.  Yeah, the same one in the movie.)  I find myself glued to the TV because it's a great movie.  And I know that I'm not the only one that finds myself doing this.  What is it about this movie that makes us watch every time?  Let's go on a POPped Time Warp, shall we?


From the moment Daniel is first beat up on the beach by Johnny (William Zabka), we were on Daniel's side.  We also understood why he was crushing on Allie (Elisabeth Shue).  Life as a high school kid is hard, and 'The Karate Kid' was going to show us exactly how hard.

We may not all have had to fight in the All-Valley Karate Championship, but we have to go through making new friends, falling for someone, trying to fit in, not feeling like they belong and just wanting to be left alone.

When you watch this movie as a teenager, you connect with Daniel and what he is feeling.  And when you watch it later in life, you immediately remember many things.  That same feeling of being that age and discovering those things.  You also remember that moment of experiencing this movie for the first time.  One of the things that really establishes that connection for me is music in this movie. From fun songs like Cruel Summer to You're The Best..it ties the story together.

But the emotional connection comes from Bill Conti's great score.  The music in certain scenes just really brings it to a different level.  From the pan flute during Daniel's training:


To this great piece when we learn that, "Daniel Larusso's going to fight?"  It's elevated from just a high school drama and given an epic emotion.


Now tell me that listening to those selections from the score did not instantly take you to those moments from the movie, and maybe even give you goose bumps.  Watching this movie for the first time and thinking how the hell was Daniel going to win.  Of course he was going to, it's Hollywood.  But how was he going to pull it off.  And then the music builds, we see Miyagi nod as he sees Daniel going in to the crane pose.  We're nodding too, thinking, "Kick Johnny's ass!"  We're holding our breath, the music builds more......SMACK!  It works, the crowd in the movie cheers in place of the audience.  

Then we cut to Miyagi's approving smile and Daniel tells him they did it.  And as the screen fades and the music transitions to Survivor's The Moment of Truth we realize, they did do it. They made what could be considered a perfect movie.      

'The Karate Kid' came out at a perfect time in the summer of 1984.  We weren't yet ready to hop in a DeLorean to time travel, and we were still reeling from finding out that Leia was Luke's sister and the Empire had been defeated.  It was a movie that didn't have big stars or a big budget.  All it had was a story that they believed in.  (Remember those?)  That story will always connect people.  Even with it's 80's soundtrack, it will be timeless.  

What say you?

POPped at Golf-N-Stuff
Jungle Jesse                      

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