Critic Reviews



Based on 15 critic reviews provided by
The Karate Kid was one of the nice surprises of 1984 -- an exciting, sweet-tempered, heart-warming story with one of the most interesting friendships in a long time.
John G. Avildsen is back in the Rocky ring with The Karate Kid. More precisely, it is a Rocky for kids. Morita is simply terrific, bringing the appropriate authority and wisdom to the part.
Slant Magazine
The Karate Kid might have been more endurable, maybe even endearing, if its runtime had been trimmed of a solid 30 minutes.
Ralph Macchio's transformation from high school geek to butt-kicking tough guy, thanks to a little help from Chinese sage Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki 'Pat' Morita) and his homespun Oriental wisdom, is entertaining enough.
When karate is not being treated as the latest excuse for an Impossible Dream success story, and when the film is able to find more in Daniel's martial-arts career than pure Rocky-esque competitiveness, The Karate Kid exhibits warmth and friendly, predictable humor, its greatest assets.
Though shamelessly manipulative, it is undeniably effective. It offers some genuine moments of warmth, humor and excitement. Of course it all leads up to a big tournament where Fair Play has a showdown with Dirty Tricks. Guess who wins. This is the kind of movie where you find yourself cheering even though you know you're being hoodwinked.
Washington Post
The Karate Kid can't really brushoff the conventional showdown it's incited, so the movie adds the obligatory action payoff to its less expected and more substantial rewards. The filmmakers can't help overbalancing on melodramatic excess from time to time, but their mistakes never obliterate the civilized wisdom of Miyagi's outlook: "Have balance, everything be better." [22 June 1984, p.B1]
As in the Rocky films, Avildsen's only directorial strategy is to delay the final confrontation for so long that all the audience's pent-up frustration explodes with it. It's primitive, predatory stuff.
In short, The Karate Kid presents the smallest imaginable variations on three well-tested formulas for movie success. Robert Mark Kamen's script is developed with maddening predictability, and John G. Avildsen's direction is literal and ambling. Films like this are what the PG rating is supposed to be all about.
This is actually director Avildsen's first hit since Rocky, and it has the same mixture of calculation and apparent naïveté. It borrows its formula from both East and West with good humour, and is completely free of intelligence, discrimination and originality. No wonder it's a hit.

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