The Next Next Karate Kid
As someone who's teenage years dominated the 80s when I heard that they were going to remake "The Karate Kid" I thought how stupid, why remake a movie which was perfectly good enough and didn't warrant messing about with. And to be honest it was one reason why when I sat down to watch the 2010 version of "The Karate Kid" I was ready to hate it. Well I was surprised as this update of "The Karate Kid" is actually not that bad, it has some issues and violence to young children being one of them, but it sort of works whether you've never seen the original before or watching with already preconceived ideas.
12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith - The Pursuit of Happyness) is less than impressed when he and his mother have to move from America for China because of her job. And whilst he makes a couple of friends within hours of arriving he also ends up making an enemy in a bully called Cheng (Zhenwei Wang) who doesn't like him speaking to the talented Meiying (Wenwen Han). And Cheng really doesn't like Dre taking any opportunity he can to use his superior martial arts skills to beat Dre to a pulp. That is until mild mannered janitor Mr. Han (Jackie Chan - Rush Hour) spots Dre being beaten up and steps in to save him and agreeing to teach him Kung Fu so that he can fight Cheng in a martial Arts tournament.
Now it has to be said that "The Karate Kid" is a rather strange blend of update and like for like stories. What I mean is that we have young Dre moving to China working as an update on the original but then you have Dre being sent down to find the handyman because there's no hot water, which is almost a like for like scene. In a way it works, this unusual blend of new with like for like and what is good is that it also pokes fun at itself with a nice twist on the trying to catch a fly with chopstick scene.
But whilst there is this blend of new with like for the like the storyline is as you would expect pretty much the same as we have young Dre being bullied in a new town and Mr. Han ending up teaching him Kung Fu so that he can fight at a Kung Fu tournament and stop the bullying. To be honest it was a good enough storyline back in the 80s and it is just as good now as we watch Mr. Han not only teach Dre Kung Fu but also a few life lessons. Although one thing I do question is the perceived violence as Dre basically gets the shit kicked out of him by the bullies. So okay we had this in the original but not only was Daniel older than Dre but so was Ralph Macchio and watching young Jaden Smith being pulverized just feels so wrong on so many levels.
Now to be honest it can't have been an easy job to remake such a well known movie which gave us so many well known phrases such as "wax on, wax off" and Harald Zwart does a good job especially when it comes to the pacing. But there are issues and not only does the inevitable training montage go on for far too long but the actual clever training is quite weak. So yes the put the coat of the hook and off again is clever and you know it's the unseen training element but that is all there is, there is no other hidden training and whilst the first time you watch Dre go through the routine is amusing by the 4th or 5th time you begin to question what else is there. Even the scene where Mr. Han takes Dre up the mountain for a bit of traditional training adds little to it and again goes on a bit too long. It's because of these extended scenes that "The Karate Kid" is 140 minutes and that to be honest is just far too long.
As for the acting well to be honest I expected a good performance from young Jaden Smith and that is exactly what I got with a blend of comedy and attitude which works. But he also looks impressive when it comes to the martial arts side of things be it the training or the actual final fight. Jackie Chan also does well as Mr. Han who whilst the janitor and Dre's mentor is a very different character to that of Pat Morita's Mr. Miyagi. Chan plays Mr. Han as less mystical and less quirky, in fact outwards just a very normal guy and again it sort of works. But more importantly Chan and Smith work well together making the most of the humour which comes from their friendship.
What this boils down to is that "The Karate Kid" remake surprised me and I actually enjoyed it more than I expected. The blend of updated storyline with plenty of like for like works well and so does the casting of Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan in the pivotal characters. It does go on for far too long and the actual perceived violence of Dre being beaten up is for me too much but for new audiences who think the 80s "The Karate Kid" is cheesy will enjoy this update, although for me the original with Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita is still the best.