‘Karate Kid’ gets off mat, re­turns as a TV se­ries

The Washington Post Sunday - - WASHINGTONPOST.COM/SPORTS - EARLY LEAD BY MATT BON­ES­TEEL matt.bon­es­teel@wash­post.com Ex­cerpted from wash­ing­ton­post.com/ear­lylead

Let’s just get this out of the way first: The first “Karate Kid” movie is, un­de­ni­ably, a sports movie. There’s a karate tour­na­ment at the end, com­plete with a huge March Mad­ness-style bracket. The fact that the first two-thirds of the film con­sists of teenage angst and prob­a­bly du­bi­ous mar­tial-arts in­struc­tion is be­side the point. Daniel LaRusso wins a big, shiny tro­phy at the end. Sports movie.

As for the other films in the fran­chise: I’m not sure what “The Karate Kid Part II” is, but it’s not a sports movie, even though it be­gins lit­er­ally where the first one ends. Then it skips ahead a few months and be­comes some kind of mu­toid re­venge fan­tasy/trav­el­ogue/love story/dis­as­ter film/re­demp­tion tale.

I never saw the third film in the se­ries — which was panned as “a hor­ri­ble movie” by its own di­rec­tor. Any­way, this far-too-long in­tro­duc­tion is merely throat-clear­ing for the news that two of the main char­ac­ters from the orig­i­nal “Karate Kid,” the one from 1984 that en­chanted just about every­one un­der the age of 12 and is of­fi­cially a sports movie, are com­ing back for a 10-episode com­edy se­ries on YouTube Red, the stream­ing video ser­vice’s sub­scrip­tion of­fer­ing.

Ti­tled “Co­bra Kai,” it will fo­cus on a down-and-out Johnny Lawrence, the bully played by Billy Zabka in the orig­i­nal. Ac­cord­ing to the Hol­ly­wood Re­porter, Johnny will re­open the in­fa­mous dojo and reignite his karate ri­valry “with a now-suc­cess­ful Daniel, who has been strug­gling to main­tain bal­ance in his life with­out the guid­ance of his men­tor, Mr. Miyagi.” Both Zabka and Ralph Mac­chio, who played the tit­u­lar char­ac­ter in the orig­i­nal, will re­turn to the roles that made them fa­mous while also serv­ing as ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers (the Re­porter says they “pitched the se­ries all over town,” draw­ing of­fers from Net­flix, Ama­zon, Hulu and AMC be­cause re­boots are all the rage).

Pat Morita, who played Mr. Miyagi, died in 2005.

“Like every­one who grew up in the 1980s, the three of us are enor­mous fans of ‘The Karate Kid,’ ” scriptwrit­ers/co-ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers Josh Heald, Jon Hur­witz and Hay­den Schloss­berg said in a joint state­ment. “‘Co­bra Kai’ will be a true con­tin­u­a­tion of the orig­i­nal films — packed with com­edy, heart and thrilling fight scenes. We can’t wait to reignite the LaRusso-Lawrence ri­valry.”

Heald is best known as the scriptwriter for 2010’s “Hot Tub Time Ma­chine.” Hur­witz and Schloss­berg were re­spon­si­ble for the “Harold and Ku­mar” films plus a lat­ter “Amer­i­can Pie” movie, so “Co­bra Kai” is def­i­nitely go­ing to skew funny.

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