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Film / Sidekicks

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Sidekicks is a 1992 film about a kid named Barry Gabrewski (Jonathan Brandis) who has asthma. He has a lot of daydreams about being Chuck Norris' sidekick, the two of them battling against Norris' movie enemies who are often personified by Barry's school bullies. He lives with his widower father Jerry Gabrewski (Beau Bridges).

Barry is taught martial arts by an old Chinese man called Mr. Lee (Mako), the sly uncle of his teacher Ms. Noreen Chan (Julia Nickson-Soul). Mr. Lee decides to teach Barry some martial arts so that he can defend himself from the bullies, foremost among those being Randy Cellini (John Buchanan). Barry later enters a tournament where he confronts his bullies and gets to fight alongside Chuck Norris after all.

Not to be confused with the comic Sidekick, or the 1974 movie starring Larry Hagman and Louis Gossett Jr..

This film provides examples of:

  • Alas, Poor Yorick: The literature teacher uses this quote to quiz Randy. He asks what the quote is from, and Randy replies, "It's from The Bible, isn't it?"
  • All Just a Dream: Barry's many, many daydreams about being in a Chuck Norris film fall into this.
  • Arch-Enemy: For some reason, Stone has it in for Chuck Norris, though Norris knows who he is, so they've likely met before. It may be jealousy, or maybe he's just an overconfident jerkass who thinks Chuck's skills are overrated. Either way, Stone gets his ass handed to him in a match with Chuck during the karate tournament.
  • Artistic License – Martial Arts: In addition, several of the people in the karate tournament, most notably Noreen and Malia Bernal, are using some form of kung fu, one dojo is explicitly a kenpo dojo, and many are not wearing a karategi, which would be required during a tournament.
  • Bowdlerize: The Amazon Prime release censors two bits in the film: It changes the word "chink" to "chump" during the scene when Mr. Lee is first introduced, and Coach Horn's two instances where he calls Barry "lady" are cut in the first instance and muted in the second.
  • Brick Break:
    • The final challenge in the karate tournament is for Barry to break NINE bricks.
    • Mr. Lee also douses them with lighter fluid and sets them on fire, saying, "this will help [you]." Why did the officials let him do that?
  • Captain Ersatz: A chunk of the plot is far too similar to the plot of The Karate Kid.
  • Composite Character: Mr. Lee's Trickster Mentor tendencies combined with Mako's Large Ham performance makes him seem like a hybrid of both Mr. Miyagi and Mickey.
  • Bullying a Dragon: One of the reasons Chuck Norris agrees to join Barry's team for the tournament is that he overhears Stone bragging that the reason Chuck Norris doesn't compete any more is that he knows Stone would kick his ass.
  • Deus ex Machina: Chuck Norris joining Barry in the karate tournament.
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: The first daydream sequence ends when Barry talks to Chuck Norris in his dream, but ends up saying it out loud in class at which point Randy mocks him.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Barry basically says this when Lauren talks to Barry about the other kids picking on him.
  • Dull Surprise: David Born as he's lit up.
    Smoke. Smoking! SMOKING! I'M SMOKING! I'M SMOKING!
  • Embarrassing Nick Name: Barry is given the nickname "Mr. Dumpling" by Mr. Lee. It doesn't seem so bad on its own, but keep in mind that Mr. Lee decided on this after rejecting other ideas like "Barry the Leopard" and "Barry the Tiger", and that the reason he named him "Mr. Dumpling" is because Barry kept getting hit by dumplings he tossed at him.
  • Hot for Teacher: Barry's dreams early on in the film involve rescuing Ms Chan before refocusing his affections on Lauren. In one particular instance, this changes mid-dream.
  • Old Master: Possibly Mr. Lee, though in fairness, he doesn't look that old and his age is never given.
  • Pair the Spares: While not explicitly stated as such in the film, it's a good bet that Jerry and Ms. Chan hooked up after the events of the film, as you can see them bonding over the course of the film.
  • Sadist Teacher: PE Teacher. Although he does complement Barry once he stands up to Randy during class.
  • Scenery Porn: During the training montages, any scene set in the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park.
  • Self-Insert Fic: The protagonist never stops fantasizing about Chuck Norris (in one scene his thoughts of Chuck actually spurs him to climb the rope in PE class), Chuck himself is nearly unbeatable in the tournament and the villains in the movie highly dislike him.
  • Shout-Out: While not explicitly a shout out to Back to the Future Part III, the wild west saloon daydream can't help but invoke that film in the way it's executed: The setting, the mustache-sporting villain cowboy, and Alan Silvestri imitating his own BTTF style during the duel.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The only event at the martial arts tournament that involves any actual combat consists of the adult teachers facing each other; unlike the tournament in The Karate Kid, the teenage students never exchange blows. (Combat sports can be dangerous, and anyone qualified to teach martial arts is presumably skilled enough to avoid accidentally inflicting a serious injury during a match.)
  • Team-Based Tournament: The movie has a tournament near the end of the film. The main characters needed four team members in the tournament, and they only had three — before recruiting Chuck Norris.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: This was probably unintentional, but Ms. Chan keeps appearing as a Damsel in Distress in Barry's Chuck Norris fantasies (likely because she's initially the only person at school to treat him with kindness, rather than out of any latent attraction). Thankfully, she is eventually replaced by his more age-appropriate crush, Lauren.
  • Throwing Off the Disability:
    • Subverted. Barry has asthma. He convinces himself that with enough willpower, he can beat an asthma attack on his own and throws away his inhaler. After a brief daydream involving him being in a torture session involving chains being tightened around his chest, we cut to him in the hospital.
    • Eventually played straight later on; Mr. Lee visits Barry in the hospital, and comments that Barry was training too hard, at too fast a pace. This convinces Lee that Barry is serious about wanting to train, and works Barry at a slower pace. During one of their later running sessions, Barry unknowingly leaves his inhalor behind, which Lee retrieves with some amusement.