- The classic 1980s movie, “The Karate Kid,” gets a reboot with the original cast members in the YouTube Red series, “Cobra Kai.”
- If you were a fan of the movie you really need to see this.
YouTube Red has been trying to get into the original content space with something that would grab a big audience, and may have finally got it with “Cobra Kai.”
The 10-episode series dusts off the classic 1984 movie, “The Karate Kid,” and brings it to the present day by looking at where the characters ended up after the movie.
If you’ve never seen “The Karate Kid” – first, how dare you, go watch it right now on Hulu or iTunes – the movie is the definition of a kid overcoming the bully. Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) moves out to Los Angeles from Newark and has a tough time fitting in at his new high school. And things get really bad when he falls for Ali, who happens to be the ex-girlfriend of the top student at the Cobra Kai dojo, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). This leads to Lawrence and his friends constantly kicking the crap of and tormenting LaRusso. LaRusso befriends the maintenance man in his building, Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), who teaches him karate. This leads to LaRusso and Lawrence facing off in a karate tournament at the end of the movie. Of course, LaRusso defeats the odds to beat the big bully Lawrence.
“Cobra Kai” takes place in the present day. The tournament looks to have shattered Lawrence’s life as he lives a sloppy existence trying to get by doing maintenance work (which he soon gets fired from doing). LaRusso, on the other hand, owns a car dealership that is thriving with multiple locations. This is a fact Lawrence can never escape because he constantly sees LaRusso commercials and billboards.
The pilot episode focuses on Lawrence’s down-and-out life. But it’s also filled with tons of “Karate Kid” references, including many clips from the movie and 1980s needle drops. There’s even a “Rocky IV”-like montage where Lawrence drives his broken-down Firebird while clips from Lawrence in “Karate Kid” flash on screen.
One of the best moments of the first episode is when Lawrence has to show off his long-ignored karate skills.
When a kid from his building is bullied by a group of kids, Lawrence steps in (well, when the kid is thrown into his precious Firebird). The group of kids then tries to take on Lawrence and he shows no mercy, even letting out the familiar high-pitched grunts that anyone who loved “The Karate Kid” will remember him doing in the movie.
By the end of the episode, the seeds are planted for a potentially great season. Lawrence and LaRusso meet after Lawrence’s Firebird is crashed into and gets hauled to LaRusso’s dealership. They kind of act cordial to one another, but you can tell they generally don’t care for each other. But the encounter gives Lawrence a light-bulb moment: He’s going to relaunch the Cobra Kai dojo.
“Cobra Kai” (which currently has a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes) is extremely entertaining, but even more so if you loved “The Karate Kid” (and its sequels) growing up. Zabka and Macchio are all in with the reprisal of their iconic roles and that’s really the hook. Some of the stuff will certainly go over your head if you weren’t into the movie, but YouTube is hoping that the popularity of the movie over decades has enough passionate fans to launch this series (and YouTube) into the streaming zeitgeist.
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