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>> Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Little one, did I ever tell you about the time
I fought off bad guys for a good couple of hours while drunk?

Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan contribute to the ongoing remake, sequel and “reimagining” fad with their version of The Karate Kid.

I know for sure at some point in my life I saw the original, and maybe a couple of the sequels (Hilary Swank was in one apparently?). Mr. Miyagi (played by the great, late Pat Morita) was just too cool a guy to not pay attention to and we all of course remember “wax on, wax off” which was replaced in this film with a more applicable “jacket on, jacket off”. Yes, I’m aware what the latter part of that phrase sounds like, but I didn’t notice that until now so I don’t see it as an issue.

Smith’s character Dre moves with his mother to Beijing, China for some unknown reason. Maybe the recession is so bad in the US they moved to a country where kids get paid a penny an hour to make Walmart merchandise? Hard to say. Either way, they end up there and Dre finds himself slowly building an accidental relationship with his and his mother’s maintence man, Mr. Han (Chan).

It seems bullies don’t just exist in North America, they exist in China too – except there they know Kung-fu. Turns out that’s a bad thing when you’re a smart-ass. After getting rescued from one of these kung-frontations by Mr. Han who shows off his mad skills and serves the group of unruly teens, Dre is put in a position where he must learn the art of Kung-fu to respectfully take on his foes one at a time in a tournament that’s just around the corner. Start the 80’s montage seqence…

Ultimately, The Karate Kid is a reimaginging (guess The NEW Karate Kid didn’t have the same ring to it) that’s about your typical ‘retired master finds himself through the new student who in turn finds his own way due to the retired master who finds himself through the new student who – well, you get the point. Do they learn lessons in the end? Yes. Is it predictable? Yes. Does Jayden Smith borrow every acting nuance from his famed father Will Smith? Yup.

But dammit all I liked it anyways. The movie has a more authentic feel to it than the original, and Jackie Chan outdoes himself to the point where if this movie wasn’t, well, this movie – he may have even been considered for an Oscar next year. Chan hasn’t looked this comfortable in a role since The Tuxedo, and that’s saying a LOT.

The Karate Kid was still really fun and waaay better than I thought it would be. Not many remakes do the original justice and the mistake is that they usually don’t try often enough to be their own movie (otherwise what’s the point?). This film is a great example of that, another would be Batman (1989) and The Dark Knight (2008) – they do something different and don’t try and reshoot the original with different actors and CG (I site 1998’s Psycho).

For those reasons and definitely a few more I’m giving The Karate Kid an open door. Not because it’s the best movie of the year, but because it did right by the material and a resonating fan base and came out on top regardless of the pre-release negative expectations. There’s nothing here we haven’t seen before, but it’s not a half bad way to kill a couple of hours, either.
*Stills courtesy Columbia Pictures


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