Quite possibly one of the biggest pieces I have written for this site to date was my analysis of the sequel to the 1980s classic film: The Karate Kid, Youtube Red Original series (now Netflix), Cobra Kai. Logically, one would think that doing a review for Season 3 of that show, which released January 1st of this year would have been the obvious choice for a follow up to that original piece. However, I guess that means I am not so obvious, because while that IS a piece that I have been working on (and its one I will not put up until it is perfect), when my editor said he had a preview copy of the documentary, More than Myagi, about the late “Pat” Noriyuki Morita, I knew that this HAD to be my follow up piece. This documentary that promised a look at his demon’s and offer more than just what we saw in the Karate Kid was something that, for many, seemed like a very enticing offering. Upon completing my viewings (I watch all things I review twice before I write), I had my story ready, and unfortunately that story is that while the documentary is a competent one, it is not one that lives up to the legacy of it’s title or premise.
Documentaries are a tricky thing. It’s difficult because while in film, we can bound narrative to 3 act structures, and implement themes of this or that to compell the audience, documentaries are tethered to events, or lives of people, and the truth of things is that life doesn’t exist within the confines of those neat packages. So the trick of a documentary is to find the angle of your story, and use those events, those facts to form that 3 act structure and tell the story you want to tell using fact alone. The point of this documentary can be determined by its synopsis:
The Oscar-nominated actor best known for his role of “Mr. Miyagi,” left behind a painfully revealing autobiographical record of his much-too-brief time here on Earth, tracing his journey from being bed-bound as a boy to the bright lights and discrimination in Hollywood. Deep inside that sweet, generous, multi-talented performer seethed an army of demons, that even alcohol and drugs couldn’t mask.
When I read this, I expected a film that would allow his roles like Mr. Myagi take a back seat, and instead focus on his own account of his PERSONAL life, and the demons he faced all the time. But when I watched this documentary, it felt like this aspect of Morita’s life was not the focus at all. That instead, this was just effectively a behind the actors studio style look at Morita’s life, from his upbringing to his roles in tv and film.
As I said before, Documentaries are a tricky breed. You have a story you want to tell, but just like anything else in the industry of film, you want to have the things that are going to draw people in. So this film is cluttered with notable people from the Industry that the audience would want to see in a documentary of Morita. People like Ralph Machio, Henry Winkler, and James Hong —People who worked with Pat, but (after watching this film) very clearly did not have the intimate nature of friendship required to tell the story the filmmakers were trying to tell. It honestly was very shocking to me because based off the interviews it felt like Morita had a better relationship with William Zabpka (Johnny Lawrence, star pupil of Cobra Kai Dojo) than he did Macchio. However, at the end of the day these people felt just like us in the context of what this story was supposed to be about, outsiders looking in. The fact that Morita’s surviving family members, his brother and half sister, literally only appear one time; the fact that this guy who was literally just credited as Pat’s Friend, was only on there one time… these are the people that should have had the most time in order to really tell this story. Ultimately, there are two documentaries of this film, there is a play by play of an actors lasting legacy, and there is the one the documentary was meant to be, and neither of those documentaries live up to what they should have been.
At the end of the day this documentary can be summed up entirely by the word: Competent. For what it is, you will leave this documentary learning more about Morita than you knew before, and as the base purpose of a documentary, it does its job. However, based off the little I saw, Morita’s life deserved more than competent, and additionally, the fact that they call out Morita’s daughter for being unwilling to take part, as the first thing you see in the credits no less, was extra salt in the wound. I give More Than Myagi a 6.5 out 10.