“The Karate Kid” combo transfers first two films to Blu

By Sean O’Connell

HollywoodNews.com stays on top of the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases so you know which films are worth your time and money. This week, we review:

“The Karate Kid” and “The Karate Kid II” (Blu-ray)

Combing through the DVD collection, I was surprised to discover I didn’t own John G. Avildsen’s “Karate Kid.” Parts two and three were on the shelf, but the original — and by far the best — was absent.

Not that I needed a physical copy of the first “Kid.” Virtually every frame of the high-school “Rocky” had been committed to memory, and not just by me, but by a generation of movie lovers who still can affect the arching crane stance or jokingly quote “wax on, wax off” anytime they’re cleaning a car.

With a remake on the way, Sony Home Entertainment put Avildsen’s inspirational drama (and its equal sequel) through the Blu-ray filter, packaging them into a collectible set and giving me the opportunity to finally add the modern classic to my collection.

So why did millions of us connect with underdog Daniel (Ralph Macchio), a New Jersey fish out of water drowning in a Southern Californian pond who’s assisted by surrogate father Miyagi (Pat Morita) and instructed in the ancient ways of karate? Macchio and Morita chalk it up to their palpable chemistry on the multi-part “Way of the Karate Kid,” an added supplement on the “Kid” Blu-ray. It must have helped that Avildsen had been through the pacings of a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps with Sylvester Stallone’s boxing drama. But successful casting decisions made with Elisabeth Shue, William Zabka, and the fantastic Martin Kove only fortified an already powerful formula.

The good vibes continued when the “band” reunited for “Karate Kid II” two years later. With Avildsen at the helm, the screenplay flipped Macchio and Morita’s roles so that the wise teacher became the needy student while on a trip back to Miyagi’s homeland of Okinawa.

Both films look good in Blu-ray, with minimal amounts of grain and strong audio transfers. In comparison, the first “Kid” receives better treatment because of an abundance of extra materials. Supplements include commentary tracks, modern interviews with the cast, multiple “Making of” featurettes, and the Blu-ray exclusive pop-up trivia track. The “Pop-Blu” continues on “Kid II,” but there’s only one other feature — “The Sequel” — on the DVD.

The Karate Kid – ***1/2 out of 4
The Blu-ray – ***1/2

The Karate Kid II – *** out of 4
The Blu-ray – *** out of 4

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