|Best of the Best is the Best of the Best|
posted by B on 4/09/01
A team is not a team if they don't give a damn about one another. But enough about us.
Very few times does a movie touch my soul. Sure, I cry at movies all the time. I can't watch "Roman Holiday" or "Breakfast at Tiffany's" without crying like a little baby, and, more recently, after leaving "Pay it Forward" I wanted to cut my throat and slam my head in the car door JUST to write "please God help me" on the parking lot with my spurting blood. That was a pretty sad movie. Plus, it had Bon Jovi as a domestic abuser! Why, Bon Jovi, why?
But I digress.
I hate a lot of things... music, television, WWF ring announcer Lillian Garcia... so very infrequently do I get to snuggle up on the couch with a bag of Spicier Nacho Doritos and cheesy jalepeno dip to really ENJOY something. And besides that weird orgy with those Mexicans, the only time I do that is to enjoy the Eric Roberts cinematic masterpiece, "Best of the Best."
"Best of the Best" is the courageous story of five courageous Americans being courageous through troubled times in a courageous attempt to win the Gold Medal in some karate tournament. Granted, the only teams in the tournament were the United States and Korea, so it might've been the West Virginia Invitational Ho-Down Face-kickin' Jamboree for all we know. But dammit, the movie made it IMPORTANT, and you LEARN and LOVE with them as they try to "best" the "best" Korean ninja superfighters in the World (of Korea)!
Runaway Bride? No. Master of Kung-Fu? Yes.
The film stars Roberts ("Babyfever," "The Lost Capone"...yeah, I never saw them either), the brother of famed yet utterly-reprehensable Julia Roberts ("My Best Friend's Wedding," "Lyle Lovett's crotch sweat"), as a down-and-out former fighter getting his last chance at glory for the United States. I can't think of another movie Eric has been in that didn't eat floppy donkey schlong, but I DID get dragged to the theater by my ex-girlfriend to see "Runaway Bride." I'm sure Eric won't ever bring home the best actor Academy Award, but even his worst has to be better than "Runaway Bride." Colon cancer has to be better than "Runaway Bride."
"Best of the Best" also features Phillip Rhee ("Best of the Best II," "Best of the Best III") as "Tommy Lee," part time drummer for Motley Crue and full time Asian-American. Tommy fills our needed role of "character in the karate movie who's brother was killed by the bad guy." Also, Sean Penn's fatter brother Chris ("Reservior Dogs," "Beethoven's 2nd") as "Travis," the stereotypical redneck on the team, John Dye ("The Perfect Weapon," "Touched by an Angel") as "Virgil," the stereotypical hippie of the team, and David Agresta (uh...Who's the Boss? I don't know) as "Sonny," the stereotypical Italian guy on the team.
Click on the Coach to hear his words of inspiration for the American Team!
Rounding out the cast are a stereotypical blonde woman and James Earl Jones ("HOT TEXAS STUDDS IN HEAT parts 2-11," "Field of Dreams"), who surprisingly never just chokes the Korean team to death with the force.
ARTICLE SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted punchlines:
Other Jones jokes I could've used there:
...who surprisingly didn't just look up the karate team in the yellow pages.
...who surprisingly never picks up the mysterious hitchhiker "Moonlight Graham."
...who surprisingly doesn't form a ragtag group of black baseball players to be his karate team.
Or something about the "Lion King," about Nathan Lane being gay and/or the demon seed of Lucifer. Released in 1989, "Best of the Best" was a box-office failure, only grossing $1.7 million worldwide and featuring some of the worst acting ever caught on film. All by Roberts. Critics panned it for being too corny and predictable, but the REAL problem is that it opened the same summer as Disney's "The Little Mermaid." How many 11 year old girls do we have running around the miniature golf course in daisy dukes and push-up bras nowadays named "Ariel?" Millions. Things could've been different, though. I'm naming my first born "Dae Han" just for spite.
Anyway, all joking aside, the film contains everything that a classic 80's karate movie should have.
1) One of the characters brother has been killed by the badguy (as mentioned) and is seeking revenge. He does not know whether to follow his heart and kill the bad guy or do the right thing and let him live. Usually has a problem speaking English (ie Jet Li, Van Damme).
2) Rockin' 80's soundtrack, with such great lines as "somethin' so strong...DRIVING ME OOOON!!!! THERE'S A FIIIIIRE!!!" and "put yourself to the Teeeeeeeeeeest...be the BEST oooof the BeeeEEEEST!!!!"
3) *No ROMANTIC INTEREST!* I cannot stress this enough. The only reason I rank BOTB higher than it's obviously superior competition that year (Van Damme's "Bloodsport") is because there is no romantic interest. I want to see evil Asian people and bar fights, not a money shot of Van Damme's buttcrack.
The movie also features discussion of the inner and outer labia, Chris Penn asking a chick if she's "doing number one or number two" in the bathroom, and a man violently punching a woman in the face. Fun for the whole family at PG-13!
Another thing that sets "Best of the Best" above the rest is the outstanding use of metaphor and symbolism. While other, more critically acclaimed films like Alan Ball's "American Beauty" choose to place symbols and meaning in movement, dialogue, or other indispensable elements of cinematic statement, "Best of the Best" takes that necessary step forward and crams symbolism down your throat with the force of a Motley Crue hipthrust into a Baywatch gullet.
The death of Tommy's brother is symbolized by the falling of an ice cream cone, because Tommy was eating ice cream when his brother got his face kicked in. Nothing says "I must avenge my brother" like ice cream, sure, but the image of the overfilled cone flipping and plummeting to the ground with the Lee that couldn't fight is presented so many times that it feels like you're in a "wonders of dairy products" high school filmstrip directed by Akira Kurosawa. Okay, I'm giving the movie too much credit. A filmstrip directed by John Woo, only not gay and in slow motion. Anyway, throughout the movie, say, Eric Roberts says something about a "team not being a team unless they give a damn about one another" and Tommy starts flipping out and seeing ice cream falling everywhere. It's pretty sad, especially if you like ice cream.
The film's climactic end comes when Tommy must choose whether or not to kill his sworn enemy and take home the gold for the United States. As the moment draws near, the image of a big Asian guy with an eye-patch squaring off with a little Asian guy in white karate clothes not ONCE conjures the image of Street Fighter II, except for when Tommy gives Dae Han the dragon punch and leaves a big scar on his chest. I won't spoil the movie for you, but I can guarantee you that at no time does Raul Julia fly around and shoot lightning.
"Best of the Best," like other great American karate flicks like "Bloodsport," "Kickboxer," and "Land Before Time," was followed by a series of sequels with descending quality. "Best of the Best 2" actually features Rhee and Roberts, but it features them battling against Wayne Newton and Brakus from the United States Wrestling Alliance. I'm not making that up. I would've pitted them against Andy Griffith or somebody if I was making it up, not a fat lounge singer with eighty-four gallons of grease in his hair and a nobody wrestler on roids so badly that his penis looks like a thumbtack. "Best of the Best 3" features Gina Gershon surprisingly not making out with girls and battling skinheads (again, I'm not making this up), and part 4, the big blockbuster comeback movie, features Roberts and Rhee rubbing their rubber nipples together in a big pool of neon. Okay, I made up that last part, it was never a blockbuster.
Wonderful in almost every way, "Best of the Best" is a great rent at your local video store, in case "License to Drive" or "Short Circuit" have already been checked out. For fun, rent "Best of the Best" with "The Matrix" and compare...watch today's greatest special effects artists overdo the wire work to simulate the natural swing and viscosity of Eric Roberts' feathered mullet.
If you'd like to learn more about "Best of the Best" or it's stars, e-mail B or visit your local library. While there, challenge your local librarian to a karate tournament for a gold medal! She will deeply regret your loss, and offer herself as your brother. I've got six librarian brothers already!
"Best of the Best," you rock!