Let me start out by saying that Karate Kid is one of my favorite movies of all time. Nothing will ever beat Pat Morita and Ralph Machhio. This article is just about my interpretation of Sidekicks and how it's a better story.
So first...let's recap each movie.
The Karate Kid:
Daniel and his mom move from the east coast to the west coast. (important to note his dad is no where to be seen or mentioned, let's assume he died in a fire like his mom probably told him when he was little)
Soon after they move, Daniel gets into a beach fight over a girl and stereo. Which is basically the cause of every fight in adolecent youths. Needless to say Daniel gets his ass handed to him and cries into the sand.
Daniel befriends the landlord and somehow doesn't annoy the shit out of him in the process. Together they confront the bullies and challenge them to a karate competition. Fastforward and you find yourself in near perfect training montages and life lessons. They also decided to throw in a very awkward love story that only mildly serves the plot.
When we get to the karate tournament, Daniel is an expert at karate and is kicking everybody's ass. (even though he's only ever trained with Pat Morita).
Soon after he wins all things and the bullies respect him. A pretty satisfying movie if you ask me.
Barry, played by the late Jonathan Brandis, is an asthmatic who basically has a shitty life. His dad is a loser, Barry is a loser and he's horrible at about everything. He also day dreams a lot, that's a major plot point to not forget. And he's seemingly obsessed with Chuck Norris. Not just obessessed, but thinks about him night and day in all kinds of situations.
Not surprisingly, Barry get's picked on by the high school bully that knows karate. He also has a crush on Danica McKellar (*sexy growl*).
Barry and his dad somehow end up in a Chinese restaurant and meet a nice Asian lady and her uncle or some other relation. Soon after a bunch of bikers show up and start being total dicks. The Uncle comes out and through a series of gags, beats them all up. (this is an important part)
Fastforward, Barry somehow befriends the Uncle and learns things that only somewhat relate to martial arts. They then enter into a karate competition where Barry will compete against a few of the bullies. Oh and did I mention Joe Piscopo is the main villain in this? He's the leader of the bad karate gym.
Then eventually, Chuck Norris shows up and a lot of weird things happen. Barry nunchucks, breaks bricks and day dreams through all of it.
I didn't realize how hard it would be to sum up Sidekicks without watching it again before writing this. It's similar to Karate Kid, yes. But when you actually compare the two, the differences are very apparent. Only after re-watching it as an adult am I able to realize a lot of what makes this movie special. When you're younger you just assume it's a cheap Chuck Norris Karate Kid knock off. (...well not only...)Why Sidekicks is better than the Karate Kid
1. The Uncle doesn't officially teach Barry ANYTHING (and probably doesn't even know karate)
Seriously, rewatch it. The Uncle gives him more instruction on making Chinese food than karate. And once more, it's never stated that the Uncle KNOWS karate or any other martial art. The only background you have of the Uncle is a brief scene in the city where he lights a guy on fire (seriously). He's more of a con man than a martial arts instructor.
Another example of this is when Barry is learning the nunchucks. They don't show any on film nunchuck instruction. The Uncle just gives Barry nunchucks and basically says "don't hurt yourself".
Even when the Uncle is handling the biker thugs in the restaurant, he doesn't use one punch or kick. He uses various Asian foods and a ceiling fan. However, later on in the movie you do see the Uncle break some bricks in an apron. Which I'm fairly certain is his only demonstration of real martial arts.
2. The uncle is an impressive badass
As I stated above, the Uncle may or may not actually know any legitimate martial art. Why is this impressive? He took out a room of bikers with soup and deception.
When Pat Morita took out the skeleton gang, he was jumping over fences, blocking punches, getting hit and generally putting himself in danger. But the Uncle knows better, he knows that he if tries to fight the bikers physically, he could endanger himself or the people around him. So what does he do? He slathers on some liquor to appear drunk and delivers food they didn't order. That's someone who's read the Art of War.
After doing all this, he somehow teaches a hopeless teenager to not suck at life. Seriously, have you ever tried teaching a teenager to be useful? It's not easy. Ask any school teacher or parent. But succeed he does and somehow does it fairly well. He even cures Barry's asthma by making him run to school
. So not only does he teach a form of not getting your ass kicked, he can cure diseases.
"Wtf am I supposed to do with these?"
This man is amazing.
Like I mentioned, the only physically impressive feat the Uncle does in the movie that's close to martial arts is breaking a lot of bricks. ("he wants to add another brick!")
3. Barry improves his own situation
Well, okay...he had help. But honestly, the Uncle only provided so much actual instruction. Where as in the Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi was teaching Daniel centuries old Karate that has been proven time and time again to be bad ass. The Uncle was teaching Barry to make dumplings and how not to hurt yourself.
"Wtf am I supposed to do with this?"
But Barry uses his own motivation and imagination to get better and eventually win a martial arts competition. However I'm sure that a psychologist would say Barry suffers from delusions and hallucinations, his imaginary friend Chuck Norris helps him climb a rope by showing him the proper form. You actually feel like that if Chuck Norris showed you how to climb a rope, you could do it too.
As ridiculous as Barry is in the movie, he is closer to how most of us felt in school. Day dreaming through classes, not physically the best at sports and generally not a cocky ass hole like Daniel in Karate Kid.
4. Imaginations and Chuck Norris
Sadly in the early 90's, there were no websites dedicated to Chuck Norris facts. He actually did spend his time being Chuck Norris and not just reading about it and being super conservative. But what makes this movie unique is that Chuck Norris is in it but really he's not.
"I don't see anything about his beard ending Vietnam?"
How many of us use our imaginations to interact with people who we don't actually know? Well Barry does this all the freaking time and is kind of a nut job. But you are left with the feeling "did this actually happen?". While the ending wraps everything up very nicely, you are not quite sure what actually happened. Barry went into his "dream state" during important moments. So he could have just as easily slipped and hit his head and is imagining all of this.
In conclusion, Sidekicks is a very different movie than Karate Kid for a lot of reasons. The main difference being that, Barry, a perpetual loser finds it inside himself to not suck. Where as in the Karate Kid, we are led to believe that with Mr. Miyagi's instructions, we too could win a karate tournament.
So if you haven't watched this movie in a while, give it another try and keep an open mind.
Interesting side fact. Pat Morita didn't really know karate either, he was a comedian. The world works in funny ways.