Sony Pictures is combining two worlds with the next “Karate Kid” movie, which will star both Ralph Macchio and Jackie Chan and is set for release on Dec. 13, 2024. The studio dropped a brief YouTube video boasting of a global casting search for the next would-be Karate Kid.
Jonathan Entwistle is onboard to direct the new film from a screenplay by Rob Lieber, with Karen Rosenfeld producing. The new “Karate Kid” movie will be both a sequel to the original 80s era theatrical series and the blockbuster 2010 remake. One can presume that Sony isn’t ignoring the newfound fandom from their “Cobra Kai” series, which was a cult hit on YouTube Red before becoming a Netflix blockbuster.
The original “Karate Kid,” directed by “Rocky” director John G. Avildsen, was pitched as a kind of like-minded underdog sports story for teens, featuring Macchio as a bullied high schooler who discovers that his apartment’s handyman (an Oscar-nominated Pat Morita) is both an expert at karate and a pretty cool guy to boot. The traumatized immigrant, whose wife and infant son died in an internment camp while he was winning a Medal of Honor fighting in World War II, helps Daniel become a skilled martial artist and a better person overall, and the film climaxes at a local karate tournament.
The acclaimed drama earned $90 million domestic in 1984 on an $8 million budget, and “The Karate Kid Part II” took the duo back to Mr. Miyagi’s hometown in Okinawa and was a popular success, earning $115 million domestic in 1986. “The Karate Kid Part III” was not a success in 1989, nor was the Hillary Swank-starring “The Next Karate Kid” in 1994.
However, a China-set remake starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan (as a loose variation on the Mr. Miyagi character) earned decent reviews and was a powerhouse hit in the summer of 2010, earning $359 million worldwide thanks to being sold as a “new to you” culture clash dramedy aimed not at nostalgic adults but at of-the-moment kids. Casting Chan as the wise unassuming mentor was a canny multicultural and multinational hook, and the global vet gave one of his very best performances.
So, yeah, Sony wants to stay in the “Karate Kid” business, not least of which because of the newfound popularity due to the Netflix series “Cobra Kai.” The show, soon airing its sixth and final season, is a legacy sequel featuring Macchio and his original rival (William Zabka’s Johnny Lawrence) decades after their original showdown. The show is filled with nostalgic callbacks to the original three movies, but it also remembered to be an of-the-moment pop culture entertainment centered on the next generation (personified by Xolo Maridueña, Mary Mouser, Tanner Buchanan and Peyton List).
Sony having to figure out how best to juggle multiple successful iterations of an IP isn’t exactly the worst problem to have, and that Chan is coming back shows that they didn’t forget about the much-better-than-expected remake and its fans that didn’t show up due to 80’s nostalgia. Without knowing how the two worlds intersect (it’s not like multiverse-hopping will be required), this is thematically akin to a future “Ghostbusters” sequel that combines the original cast, the “Afterlife” folks and the stars of the Paul Feig-helmed remake.
There is no word on whether any other “Cobra Kai’ cast members will reprise. Ditto for Jaden Smith — who held his own alongside a screen legend.
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