More Than Miyagi: The Pat Morita Story

Movie review by
JK Sooja, Common Sense Media
More Than Miyagi: The Pat Morita Story Movie Poster Image
Intimate, honest biography addresses racism, alcoholism.
  • NR
  • 2021
  • 89 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Be nice, and treat people well. Be a good parent and strive for what you truly want in life. General positive messages against racism, cultural appropriation, and whitewashing. "I think the best things in life begin from, sometimes, the worst things in life, but not without effort. Not without hopes and dreams," Pat Morita.

Positive Role Models

Pat Morita was a pioneer in many ways, but he was also a good human being. While he struggled with personal demons, alcoholism, and drug use, he'll always be an early role model for many Asian Americans and others. From his breakthrough and consistent presence in U.S. national television on shows like M*A*S*H*, Sanford and Son, and Happy Days to his Oscar-nominated performance as Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid, Morita was a respected and loved Asian American celebrity. Many others around him also show kind words and instances of goodness, love, friendship, and respect.


Footage from various Japanese internment camps, pictures and images of public signage showing off "No Japs!" signs and posters and other anti-Japanese paraphernalia. Discussion about how every other day someone was dying in the camps. Some scenes from Morita's shows and movies that have fighting, punching, and kicking. Some bruised faces and blood trickles here and there. A brief description of how Morita's father was accidentally killed by being hit by a truck and then dragged for a while.


Some home video shots of Morita in his underwear. Some jokes of Morita's that are slightly sexual in nature, like how he often left set saying, "Time to wax on, wax off, wax on, and wack off, now." At a public press event for The Next Karate Kid, Morita jokes that the new Karate Kid's legs are "much nicer," referring to Hilary Swank


Language includes "bulls--t," "ass," and a fair amount of racial pejoratives and slurs mentioned in jokes and commentary, like "Jap," "Nip," and "Yellow." 


A few quick endorsements for Cobra Kai, a spin-off from The Karate Kid.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lots of discussion about the violence of alcoholism and addiction. Morita boasts of being drunk every day, almost all the time. Scenes and pictures show Morita drinking and acting drunk. Friends and family tell stories about Morita's struggles with alcohol and drugs. Pictures of Morita smoking out of a large bong. Friends mention that Morita was a "very big pot smoker." Fair amount of adults smoking cigarettes. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that More Than Miyagi: The Pat Morita Story is a documentary about the comic, actor, and star of The Karate Kid movies, Pat Morita. Expect lots of footage, highlights, and clips from Morita's television and movie career, as well as a fair amount of personal home video footage from his later years. It's an intimate and at times touching biography of an Asian American pioneer, comic, and actor in a more White-dominated entertainment industry than today. There's lots of discussion of the racial challenges in Hollywood Morita faced, his personal traumatic history through his long childhood hospital stay from age 2 to 11, and his experience during the Japanese internment camps. The documentary also doesn't hide from Morita's flaws, personal demons, and alcoholism. There's a fair amount of footage and pictures that show Morita drinking, drunk, and/or behaving wildly. A few scenes of Morita smoking marijuana out of a large bong pipe. Lots of adults smoking cigarettes. Language includes "bulls--t" and "ass," but there's strong racialized language throughout, such as "Jap," "Nip," and "Yellow" and lots of jokes that capitalize on or target race. A few sexist remarks like, "Are you a girl? Punch like a man!" and "The new Karate Kid has nicer legs" (about his new The Next Karate Kid co-star, Hillary Swank). Some jokes of Morita's are slightly sexual in nature.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBelson N. February 9, 2021

Not what you think

They drink and get drunk every single minute, It's like Deadpool but every time there is violence or rude humor there is drinking. The story line was TERRI... Continue reading

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What's the story?

The MORE THAN MIYAGI: THE PAT MORITA STORY shows Pat Morita in all his cheer, charm, and happiness, but it also takes pains to detail his tough history, childhood, and upbringing. From his start as a standup comedian under the same manager and mother of Lenny Bruce, Morita became a staple on American television. As Ah-Chew on Sanford and Son or as Arnold on Happy Days, Morita was a beloved Asian American performer, unique at the time for being so visible, prominent, and bankable. But Morita also had his demons and struggles even though he didn't show it. Mostly, they all went into his drinking, and it would ultimately also be his biggest enemy.  

Is it any good?

More Than Miyagi: The Pat Morita Story is a solid documentary about an Asian American entertainment pioneer. There's so much great Pat Morita footage here that proves how compelling an entertainer he was. Not so much an activist as a survivor always looking to be funny first, Morita nevertheless still encountered incredible forms, structures, and instances of racism throughout his life and career. Often times he leaned into it, playing with different Asian accents, like how his Chinese accent for Arnold was supposed to be for a character originally meant to be Japanese. Many of his characters didn't have accents (Morita himself didn't have one and couldn't speak Japanese) but many did. But by the time his career really took off with his Oscar-nominated portrayal of Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid, Morita was decades deep in a lifelong addiction to alcohol. Watching his downfall is the saddest part of this documentary and yet another reminder of the dangers and tragedy of alcoholism that not only affect the abuser or addicted, but also everyone around them.

The film also has a decent amount of historical covering that features footage and pictures from the Japanese internment camps and U.S. public sentiment around the country. There's also a brief section that nicely but briefly covers U.S. cinema's history of whitewashing Asian roles and racist Asian characterizations and representations, like Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about race and representation in movies. More Than Miyagi: The Pat Morita Story highlights Morita's start as a comedian then as an actor. How unique do you think Morita's position was in the entertainment business back then as an Asian American? What kinds of challenges did he encounter that non-Asian American actors did not? How did Morita himself feel about being Asian in the industry? How did he navigate these challenges?

  • Discuss cultural appropriation and whitewashing. In your opinion, have things in the entertainment business gotten better for Asian and Asian American representation? What positive examples can you think of? What about negative?

  • How do you feel the film handled Morita's alcoholism? Was there a clear message? 

  • Because roles dried up for Morita as he got older, he struggled to maintain consistent work. Combined with his addiction to alcohol, he quickly became unemployable. How might the racist parameters of Hollywood at the time encouraged Morita's drinking trajectory toward tragedy? 

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