The Karate Kid

Transported to Beijing

         
 

10 June 2010| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Too kooky, much too hokey, and overlong. You can forget about a relocation from New Jersey to Los Angeles because in this new update of The Karate Kid you get a relocation from Detroit to China. Jaden Smith is the 12-year old kid barely starting puberty and Jackie Chan is the martial arts trainer. The 1984 crowd-pleaser, back when crowd-pleasers were an honorable craft, featured Ralph Macchio as a 17-year old high school senior who gets roughed up too many times by rich kid snobs so he falls under the guiding hand of Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi.

Although the remake doesn’t have my endorsement, I will admit it is not rotten, either. Our young actor Jaden, son of uber-famous Will Smith, has pluck and presence as Dre, and looks skilled and nimble during the martial arts action. Chan is doing one of his aging man morose acts as Mr. Han, the kind he’s been doing since he lost his stunt abilities, but he has a caring aura around him and he bonds well with the kid.

Besides Mr. Han, Dre has two friends the entire movie: a white kid we meet at the beginning and never see again and a gifted young Chinese violinist Meiying (Han Wenwen) who has bashful eyes for him. Dre’s mom is played by feisty actress Taraji P. Hensen (recently nominated for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”), and in screenplay neglect, we never get an idea of what kind of job she got that forced her to move with her young son to China! She hardly comes off as a supermom with international communication skills. But hey, it may be set in China but it’s still the land of Hollywood corn. Within minutes of arrival, Dre gets in a fight with the local bully (Wang Zhenwei) who will become his unceasing adversary.

There is some Chinese flavor and even some dialect (with English subtitles) throughout the movie, and visits to a kung fu palace is actually kind of awesome. For a moment, Dre even gets into the yin and yang spirit of advanced martial arts and we see through his eyes that he understands the interior of his opponent. The training sequences are the coolest part, not the matches in the ring.

At the big tournament, Dre has to get in the ring with a number of bullies who are trained under the Fighting Dragon school which is coached by the unforgiving Master Li (Yu Rongguang Yu). It is through this character that we see the movie look at Chinese culture as something cruelly exotic: Master Li punches a student who is a tad on the merciful side. Once again, mercy is for the weak.

Depending on who you are, you might or might not have a problem with 12-year olds engaging in hand to hand combat. And so you want to know, how is the action in the final tournament? Is it cool? The honest answer is its half good, half bad. Half the time the action is photographed with finesse shots that are held steady and comprehensible, but the other half it is done in jarring close-ups and indistinguishable cutaways. Smith is a movie star in the making though – if he keeps his dreadlocks he can play Predator one day. But sincerely, it would be a justifiable choice if Spike Lee or John Singleton cast him in something one day.

140 Minutes. Rated PG.

FAMILY FILM / MARTIAL ARTS / WEEKEND AFTERNOON MOVIE

Film Cousins: “The Karate Kid” (1984); “The Karate Kid Part II” (1986); “Sidekicks” (1992); “The Next Karate Kid” (1994).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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