Go outside and look around. What do you see? Are women wearing leg warmers? Are men wearing Tom Selleck mustaches? Is Ronald Reagan in the White House? Are people walking into fast food places demanding to know the whereabouts of the beef? None of that? Really? That's weird, because to look at the movie listings you'd think it was NINETEEN EIGHTY DAMN FOUR!
We've been building up to this all year. Kevin Smith's Cop Out was an homage to '80s buddy-cop movies; MacGruber was a parody of '80s action movies; A Nightmare on Elm Street was a remake of an '80s slasher film; Hot Tub Time Machine took its characters back to 1986; soon The Expendables will reunite a bevy of '80s action stars.
But this weekend is the '80s-est weekend of 2010, with two new wide releases straight from 1984: The Karate Kid and The A-Team. Someone who fell into a coma in 1984 and woke up today would feel right at home. Well, except for being in a hospital, and being unable to move or speak due to severe muscle atrophy, and hearing about Gary Coleman. On the bright side, he'd be able to see The A-Team on the big screen, and The Karate Kid remade with all the karate replaced by kung fu!
The first Karate Kid was released June 22, 1984, two weeks after Ghostbusters and Gremlins, three weeks after Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, four weeks after Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Hitting theaters the same day were Top Secret! and Rhinestone. Still to come that summer were Purple Rain, Bachelor Party, Red Dawn, Revenge of the Nerds, The Last Starfighter, Conan the Destroyer, and Tightrope. Though it was never #1 at the box office -- that summer was hugely competitive, as you can see -- The Karate Kid stayed in the top 10 for 16 weeks and ultimately grossed $90.8 million, which would be $214 million at today's ticket prices. It was a huge hit.
Meanwhile, The A-Team was a TV success. It hit almost exactly the same demographic sweet spot as The Karate Kid, i.e., Boys Who Like to Watch People Fight. I turned 10 that summer, and everyone I knew loved The Karate Kid and The A-Team. (I didn't know any girls.) The NBC action series had premiered in January 1983 and was an instant hit. It was at the peak of its success in the summer of 1984, having ended the season in fourth place among all TV shows and having already spawned a Saturday-morning Mister T cartoon.
So what else was happening in the summer of 1984? Let's take a look. Some of these things will probably come back any day now, so we should be prepared.
- The Apple Macintosh was brand-new on the market. It cost about $2,000 (in 1984 dollars!). It didn't run Flash, but you didn't have to sign up with AT&T, either.
- The Summer Olympics were held in Los Angeles, proving once and for all that you don't need clean air or functional public transportation to host the Games. (Said Beijing: "Whew!")
- Miss America Vanessa Williams had to resign after appearing nude in Penthouse magazine. Fortunately, this was the last time a beauty-pageant contestant ever did anything provocative or embarrassing. It was also the last time anyone knew the name of a Miss America.
- The burgeoning home-video market got a boost when the Supreme Court ruled that taping a TV show with your VCR, for personal use, was not a copyright infringement. In this day of DVRs, Hulu, and Netflix, it's hard to believe there was a time when people thought recording a TV show might be illegal. Can you imagine having to arrange your schedule so that you're HOME when a particular program is aired? We lived like savages!
- Paris Hilton, at 3 years old, was already as rich and smart as she would ever get.
- If you turned on the radio that summer, you probably heard "Jump," "Footloose," "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)," "Let's Hear It for the Boy," "The Reflex," "When Doves Cry," and "Ghostbusters." A lot. A LOT. You probably could not get them out of your head. You probably have some of them in your head now. Especially "Let's Hear It for the Boy." Sorry.