"The Karate Kid" Movie Review (2010)

6/14/2010 Posted by Admin

"The Karate Kid"

Movie Review

Directed by Harald Zwart, Written by Christopher Murphey, 140 Minutes, Rated PG

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

"The Karate Kid" is a mixed bag. Under scrutiny it is, for the most part, just like the original '80s film starring Ralph Macchio and, of course, Pat Morita. The plot, the lessons, the characters, the montages, and the resolution are all the same. Anyone who's seen the original will pretty much know what's coming, beat for beat.

This seems to be the main dilemma with remakes. Either they're not faithful enough, and they get trashed, or they're too faithful and--well, they still get trashed, but I suppose not quite as often. "The Karate Kid," though, has enough charm and great enough performances that even being a virtual carbon copy of the original, it will impress new and old audiences alike.

One major (and wise) change is in the setting. The original film followed Macchio's character as he moved in with his estranged mother in California. Andre (Jaden Smith), the new film's equivalent of Macchio's Daniel, is still from Detroit, but here the film follows him as he moved with his widowed mother to her new job in China.

Andre just doesn't fit in. He doesn't speak the language, he has no friends, and soon after starting school a group of Chinese boys his age bully him when he attempts to make friends with a girl their leader likes, and he's desperate to go back home to Detroit. Following a particularly brutal attack from the bullies, Andre learns that his apartment building's maintenance man, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), is a master of Kung Fu, and he promises to teach it to Andre so he can face the gang at a tournament and earn their respect.

Jackie Chan is a hard sell at first--he's been so stuck in comedic roles lately that it's difficult to imagine him in a wise mentor role. But this may be the best performance (for an American film, at least) that Chan has ever given. He may not reach the iconic level of Morita's original performance, but he definitely makes it his own and does great things with it, both comedic and dramatic, and he and Smith work very well together.

And let's be honest, Jaden Smith's role here is obviously the product of nepotism--Will and Jad Pinkett Smith are both producers on the remake--but unlike a lot of child actors, Smith truly has the talent to back it up. Chan is great, but Smith really gives a star-making performance. If there's anything this film easily holds over the head of its predecessor, it's Smith.

There are some odd problems throughout the film, though, completely separate from the fact that its a remake--for one, Smith's character, the girl he likes, the gang bullying him--they're all 11 or 12. In the original Macchio's character was in high school. Stuff like what happens in the film make a bit more sense in context of teenagers and high school. But with kids this young, it's all a bit weird, and it almost comes off more as a cultural issue than one of honor or bravery. That's obviously not the actual case, but someone could conceivably jump to a conclusion like that.

The Chinese setting also makes for a few embarassing caricatures, but nothing too over-the-top or offensive. Referring to Smith's character as the "Karate Kid" when he and everyone else is studying Kung Fu is a bit out there, though.

But as far as remakes go, it's not the best out there, but it's definitely a worthy effort and a fine display of Chan and Smith's skills, both as dramatic actors and action ones. They're beyond impressive.

At 140 minutes, the film's quite a bit longer than it needs to be, but it's entertaining. Solid family entertainment in an age when something like that is really hard to come by.

Grade: B-

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  1. Anonymous said...

    I felt that the age wasn't a problem middle school may have been different for you but in my day being 12 doesn't stop you from being cruel and there is further evidence in the news. This is what made it realistic for me plus Jaden Smith is a bonafide action star. He already was studying karate before the movie and the year of training only further sharpened his skills. Watch out as he hits puberty.

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