YES, SENSEI!

by - July 29, 2018



There are three movies that I will sit all the way through if I start watching them. They are The Goonies, Can't Buy Me Love and The Karate Kid. One time in college, my friend Jeff and I were walking through the mall. The long since closed store that sold VHS tapes had three TVs in their entrance way display case. As we were passing by, The Goonies had just started. We stopped in front of the monitors and started talking about how great of a movie is The Goonies. Next thing we know, credits are rolling.  We had stood outside the video store for 90 minutes watching a movie we had seen multiple times. And some have the audacity to say I did college wrong.

Corey (Mouth) Feldman, Jeff (Chunk) Cohen, Robert (Jake Fratelli) Davi. Goonies Q&A

Of the three films, the one that I have probably seen the most times is The Karate Kid. It's a near perfect underdog story. While the two sequels and the spinoff with Hilary Swank were a few notches below the original in quality, they at least kept some of the heart and spirit of The Karate Kid. Unfortunately, imo, that wasn't the case with the Jaden Smith/Jackie Chan remake. That version felt like a blatant attempt at taking an established property and riding the coattails of name recognition that has plagued Hollywood for the last decade. With memories of the remake still floating around somewhere in my headspace, I was nervous when YouTube announced they were greenlighting aseries based on the original movie. Even with Ralph Macchio and William Zabka returning to tell the continuing story of Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence, I had reservations. 

Hollywood has remade several films and TV shows from my youth over the last decade and for every 21 Jump Street there seems to be at least three Baywatch's. The biggest problem with most of the remakes comes from cynicism towards the original. Given how attitudes and culture have shifted over the years, for some reason anytime an older property is remade, the writers/producers/directors feel the need to make fun of the source material. This was my biggest concern with the Cobra Kai announcement. 

 Photo from Joblo

The full series was release on May 2 on YouTube's subscription service. Due to not having a YouTube subscription and not sure if I wanted to risk the tarnishing of a childhood classic, I did not immediately jump at the chance to go back to sweeping legs in the valley.  After reading only positive reviews of the series and YouTube offering a free month trail subscription, seemed like the perfect chance to see if the hype was legit. 

Within five minutes of the first episode my fears subsided and I sat back an enjoyed ten nearly perfect half hours of storytelling.  The story is simple yet effective. Take the characters and realistically pick up 34 years later. Daniel has parlayed his karate championship into becoming the premiere car dealership mogul of the San Fernando Valley providing the good life for his wife and two kids. On the other side of the tracks, Johnny never recovered from losing the All Valley Karate Championship and verbal beat down from Sensei Kreese. Like a lot of high school athletes who don't find success after graduation, Johnny has a failed marriage and son who he's not close to due to bouncing from one odd job to the next. 

One aspect I liked with the story told in Cobra Kai was how the creators/writers took the theory popularized in How I Met Your Mother that Daniel is actually the bad guy of The Karate Kid while Johnny is the real "Karate Kid" and focused the new story around Johnny trying to redeem the name of Cobra Kai while Daniel only sees the high school bully.  I won't go into full episode or overall story breakdown other than to say the series, like the original movie, leads up to the All Valley Under Eighteen Karate Championship. Early on, you can see where the story is going. That's not a bad thing. The story is logical and engaging. Getting to the finish is part of the fun. 

My only complaint with the series, and this is a very minuscule issue, is the absence of Elisabeth Shue. Her character, Ali, is addressed in the show and there's a perfect reason for her to not be involved. As a fan who wants full nostalgia, it would have been nice to see her show up. Maybe she'll come back for Season 2. 

I could type out all the things I liked about the show but really all I need to say is  WATCH THIS SHOW! Cobra Kai exceeded all expectations. If Hollywood could guarantee this level of awesomeness with all remakes, I would be more receptive and actively encourage more of them. I will continue to push for a continuation of BJ and the Bear.






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