Blog Archive

Up On The Mountain Vol. 14 . . .

Posted by 2 Dollar Productions Wednesday, January 23, 2008

{Editor's Note: This is a semi-regular series of high-water mark performances that spans movies, television, books, music and life its ownself.}

"The Karate Kid" was a fine product of the 80s as it featured an underdog overcoming long odds and using karate to settle scores with a bunch of teenage bullies at school.

This film, however, would not have endured if it weren't for the fine work of Pat Morita as "Mr. Miyagi," a role that the actor dominated by playing it straight and never succumbing to kitsch. He projected the character as stern yet caring, and he never lost his sense of humor while staying away from cheap parlor tricks.

In many ways, Mr. Miyagi was a Renaissance man. He was proficient in fixing things, a master of karate, an excellent Bonsai tree trimmer, a spiritual man and someone who could appreciate a good joke as he answered Ralph Macchio's questions about his karate belt color by extolling the virtues of his "$3.98 belt to hold his pants up."

Obviously he was a practical man as well.

But it didn't stop there as Morita also owned a great house surrounded by a fleet of antique cars, a domestic set-up that was consistently being improved by the steady stream of child labor in the form of Macchio. The man even had a koi pond out back!

Morita's acting ability even made it plausible that Mr. Miyagi had a potent healing power that could be summoned by simply rubbing his hands together and then touching them to an injury. Quite simply, the man was an unstoppable force of nature.

It's a credit to Morita that this played out so well, and the film loses steam whenever he's not on camera. The filmmakers were very wise to have chosen Morita because Macchio could never have carried this project on his own back - he needed a firm hand and classy guy like Morita to guide him into the promised land.

Morita easily steered the movie to its winning conclusion, and in doing so, turned in the most enduring work of his career.



  1. Wax on, wax off.

    I just wanted to be the first to write that in the comments. I really have nothing of value to say here.

  2. Heff Says:
  3. Morita made a lot of "stinkers" also. This was probably his best work.

    Macchio - Yeah, no comment.

  4. WhatIgot - Sure. I also like the "paint the fence" one as well.

    Heff - Oh yeah he did. One w/ Jay Leno comes to mind, although I never saw it. Macchio thankfully disappeared despite a small part in "My Cousin Vinny."

  5. BostonPobble Says:
  6. This has always been my favorite Morita role as well. I always thought it was highly underrated. Leave it to you, dear $$, to remind people that it really was good work, in spite of the vehicle.

  7. nobich Says:
  8. Wasn't Elisabeth Shue the girlfriend? or am I completely nuts?

  9. Bostonpobble - Agreed and I'm happy to do it. He had some dignity in that role, and seemed like a good friend to have as a teenager in a new city needing to learn karate. THe best.

    Nobich - You are correct. Good memory. It was one of Shue's first roles and she is the love interest. So, you are NOT nuts. Ha.

  10. Linda Says:
  11. This movie came out when my kids were really little, so a night at the movies required quality. I have such fond memories of seeing this movie. I remember being so impressed. Awesome performances all 'round. Thanks for the memory!

  12. vivavavoom Says:
  13. this review, while very good, made me laugh because I feel like I must have reviewed this just like you did when I was stoned....many moons ago.

    wax on, wax off little grasshopper.

    I also think the teen villian, can't remember the actor, was very convincing. very spaderesque!
    One movie that did not live up to the hype I gave it was 'Less Than Zero' saw that recently again. bad acting = Jamie Gertz and Andrew McCarthy. How that guy continued to get lead roles is beyond me.

  14. Linda - You're welcome as I bought this on DVD a month or two ago for $5 - what a steal. I watched it last week and had forgotten how much I enjoyed it.

    Vivavavoom - Ha. It does read that way as I can also relate, although I lean towards out and out comedies if that is the situation surrounded by snacks. As for the villian, he was a blonde, Spader-esque bad guy of the 80s (also turned up in Back to School). Finally, I need to see Less than Zero as I finally read the book last year.

  15. Carmel Says:
  16. I loved all the Karate Kid movies, Pat of course, made them all.

  17. Miss Ash Says:
  18. Bah WIGSF beat me to it!!!

    I saw this movie...well in the
    80's of course and have not seen it since.

  19. Carmel - Oh yes he did. Ha. I thought they got increasingly worse at the series progressed (like nearly all series, but . . . )and I never saw the one with Hilary Swank.

    Miss Ash - Beaten to the punch, eh? That's OK, and I hadn't seen this movie for a long time until I bought it for $5 on sale and watched it again. It held up surprsingly well.

  20. Best Mr. Miyagi quote from the movie:

    "there is no try, either do or no do, or else squish, like grape"

    (I doubt that's the exact line, but it's close enough for not having seen the movie since I was eleven or so)

  21. The Troll Says:
  22. Wax on, Wax off. (Typed with a dead-on Morita imitation making it better than whatig's)

    Interesting idea and a deserving winner. I'd suggest Secretariat for a future "Up on the Mountain" segment.

  23. Gypsy Says:
  24. I was youngish when I saw this movie and I loved Mr Miyagi. You know a film is popular when a line from it becomes ingrained in every day vernacular. Wax on, wax off took years to wear off. Thank God it did eventually.

  25. I do not claim to know anyone famous. But I have met the real karate master who worked on this film, training Morita and Macchio. Another credit to Morita is that he apparently doesn't know karate. But that crane thing does not exist in any Japanee martial arts system I've ever heard of.

  26. Native Minnow - Yes, it is close enough to get the idea, although I think (think?) that you're combining something Yoda said in a Star Wars movie with Morita. I could be wrong.

    The Troll - That's a good idea for a future post in this series as you could make a strong case for Secretariat. I also need to branch out from film, so . . .

    Gypsy - Yep. When a movie is able to leave an imprint on the pop culture landscape, then at the very least, you have to respect it - even if it's not that good (although this is not true w/ the Karate Kid).

    Getoffmylawn - That's pretty damn cool in my book. And as you noted, it makes me respect Morita even more despite the lack of a true Crane in real life. Did you train with this guy?


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