John G. Avildsen

Avildsen sure likes underdog stories. I wonder how much of that comes from his own life. I see nothing special in his direction or his ability to make his scripts better. I have to admit I haven’t yet seen the original Rocky movie, which is more or less the inspiration for every underdog movie ever. So you have to give him credit for that.

Rocky V: The late Tommy Morrison, who was then an undefeated heavyweight boxer, was cast as Rocky’s protege. Rocky’s down on his luck, poor again somehow, and then this Tommy guy betrays him. The movie’s climax doesn’t take place in the ring this time; Rocky and Tommy duke it out in the street like a good ol’ parking lot bar fight. Shoots for drama, fails miserably.

Grade: F

The Karate Kid: Part III: Ralph Macchio, now 75 years old but still pretending to play teenager Daniel, goes through some hormonal stuff (probably because every girl who falls for him breaks up with him before the next movie) and defies Mr. Miyagi and trains for the next All-Valley karate tournament with the world’s most obvious douchebag. And–complete and utter surprise–the douchebag is friends with Martin Kove, the bad guy from the first movie. Also shockingly, Daniel eventually comes to back to Miyagi, who forgives him. And for the biggest twist yet, Daniel defeats a much more skilled opponent to win the tournament. Also, there’s some bonsai trees. Daniel was the plucky underdog kid from the wrong side of the tracks in the first movie. Here, he’s just a tool. Shameful script and lifeless direction.

Grade: F

8 Seconds: Sort of true story about Lane Frost, a professional bull-rider who was killed by a bull after a successful ride at the age of 26. A bit emotionally manipulative, but it was watchable considering I have no interest in the real thing. Pretty good soundtrack if you like country.

Grade: D

The Karate Kid: Part II: Not-bad sequel to quirky, feel-good original. Daniel goes to Okinawa because Miyagi is the father he never had and he has to follow him everywhere. Despite Daniel further overcoming bullies who hate him for no reason, the movie is more about Miyagi, who grieves his father’s death and must confront an old friend who wants him dead. Pat Morita is excellent again, and there are some cool individual scenes like the ice-breaking contest. It could have been a great dramatic movie, but there’s too many contrivances and obvious plot points. Despite this, I still enjoy it today.

Grade: B-

The Karate Kid: Daniel Larusso’s mom moves him out to Raceda where he quickly becomes the enemy of every bully in school because he exists, and then makes it worse by antagonizing his bullies. Enter Mr. Miyagi, a local handyman and gardener who tricks Daniel into doing his chores and magically teaches him karate at the same time. The entire plot is preposterous and the movie is a bit slow at times, but it’s great fun and the tournament Daniel redeems himself at is energetic and well-choreographed. The movie itself inspired tons of kids (including myself) to take karate lessons and do the crane kick countless times despite it being a worthless attack.

Grade: B+

Other John G. Avildsen Movies You May Have Seen

Lean on Me
The Power of One
Desert Heat
Save the Tiger

2 thoughts on “John G. Avildsen”

  1. I laughed out loud at your comment, ” The movie itself inspired tons of kids (including myself) to take karate lessons and do the crane kick countless times despite it being a worthless attack.” Maybe you can’t defend yourself with the crane kick, but you sure looked cute in your karate outfit. :} My favorite part of the movie was watching Miyagi catch flies with chopsticks.

  2. Ah, The Karate Kid. Stupid, but amusing. I never planned on seeing them again, but I could use a laugh sometimes, and an overly-happy ending after a preposterous, manipulative ’80s adventure always leaves me howling. Rocky is dumb – not Best Picture material at all. An ex of mine loved 8 Seconds because if you liked country at the time, apparently you had to claim this movie was great. At a glance I think his best movie was Lean on Me, but I suspect that was highly manipulative as well, as I haven’t seen it since it was in the theater.

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