James Crabe’s photography gets The Karate Kid through the rough patches. The film’s incredibly uneven–Bill Conti’s score initially seems like it’ll be a plus, ends up being a minus, and the editing is strange. Director Avildsen, with two other editors, can’t seem to figure out how to cut the climatic fight sequence. Like many sequences in the film, it’s set to a pop song (only one of those sequences works out), but it’s almost like Avildsen didn’t consider how to cut the film together when shooting.
But, like I said, Crabe’s there to make up for Avildsen’s questionable composition. There are a few times he goes for painfully obvious symbolism–poor Ralph Macchio dejectedly walking away alone–but mostly Avildsen goes for pedestrian. Crabe’s photography and William J. Cassidy’s production design give the film most of its personality.
The rest of the personality comes from Macchio and Pat Morita. Robert Mark Kamen’s script is far from great (and not particularly close to good either), but Macchio and Morita’s relationship does keep the film together through its lengthy runtime. Kamen and Avildsen prefer telling the story in summary, which makes it hard to care about Macchio right off. They seem to understand and loose William Zabka to mercilessly bully Macchio from the second or third scene.
There are some nice moments, eventually–not for a while–with Elisabeth Shue and Macchio.
Macchio’s performance is more appealing than good, ditto poor Morita (who’s basically playing Yoda). A better finish would’ve helped.
Directed by John G. Avildsen; written by Robert Mark Kamen; director of photography, James Crabe; edited by Bud S. Smith, Walt Mulconery and Avildsen; music by Bill Conti; production designer, William J. Cassidy; produced by Jerry Weintraub; released by Columbia Pictures.
Starring Ralph Macchio (Daniel), Pat Morita (Miyagi), Elisabeth Shue (Ali), Randee Heller (Lucille), William Zabka (Johnny) and Martin Kove (Kreese).