The Karate Kid, USA 2010
The Karate Kid, USA 2010
aka. The Kung Fu Kid (China)
Best Kid (Japan)
New Karate Kid (Indonesia)
The Karate Kid: The Legend Continues (Italy)
Directed by Harald Zwart
12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith, son of movie star Will Smith) and his mother Sherry (Taraji P. Henson) move to Beijing from West Detroit after she gets a transfer in her car factory job, needless to say he wasn't too pleased about the move. However, Dre develops a crush on a young violinist, Mei Ying (Wenwen Han), who seems to return his affection, but Cheng (Zhenwei Wang), a kung fu prodigy whose family is close to Mei Ying's, attempts to keep them apart by beating Dre, and later proceeds to bully him in and around school. That along with being stranded in a land so foreign from his hometown, basically makes Dre's a living hell, he however makes an unlikely ally in the form of an aging maintenance man at the place he and his mum are living, Mr. Han (Hong Kong legend Jackie Chan), who also happens a master in Chinese Martial Arts as Han grudgingly takes Dre under his wing, not only to help confront the bullies but to also face off against Cheng in a CMA tournament.
Okay, where to begin? This film gained a lot word of mouth before it came out and not in a good way. Ranging from "Not another remake", "Jackie Chan's selling out for another Kids film", "A Hollywood actor trying to make a star out of his son" and of course "Why is called Karate Kid, if its taking place in China?" A lot of people expected this movie to be universally panned by critics, if not bomb at the box office but to everyone's surprise the film received mixed to positive critical reception and was a box office success.
But is it actually good? Well, itís no masterpiece of Cinema but in my opinion, yes, it is good.
A 2010 remake of the iconic 1984 film The Karate Kid, the film is almost an exact replica of the original, although thatís not necessarily a bad thing. The thing is the story in the 1984 film has a very universal theme, youth moves into a new area with a single parent, falls in love with the town sweetheart, gets bullied and beaten up by the townís local youth and later feels isolated in a place so foreign to where he originally came from somehow pulls for whether through help or sheer determination is a coming-of-age story that many can relate to. The remake really does a good capturing that theme while still adding its own touch.
However, there's the whole issue with the title, why is the film called The Karate Kid, if the martial art highlighted here is Chinese Martial Art? The only reference we've seen of Karate is when Dre is seen practicing to a Karate lesson on TV.
Director Harald Zwart being behind the camera didnít create exactly get a lot of people excited due to his previous films (Agent Cody Banks, The Pink Panther 2) especially when compared to the original filmís director John Avildsen (Rocky) but surprisingly he did a pretty decent job, the cinematographer Roger Pratt (who filmed two Harry Potter films) truly captured the many different sides of China, from the crowded city of Beijing to the beautiful exotic scenery of the Wudang Mountains. The dialogue can be quite forced and even cheesy at times but nothing that ruins the film.
Although not in the same level as in Hong Kong action films, the fight choreography was done well enough and fun to watch, with Hanís fight with Dreís bullies in the end of the film being the highlight (for me personally since it has at trademark Jackie Chan charm), however the fights in the tournament are more flashy than the more realistic look competition fights in the 1984 version .
The actors in the film give a pretty good performance, I have to admit, I expected to be annoyed by Jayden Smith (the trailer didnít help much) but his performance actually surprised me, itís not Oscar worthy but he put on a better performance than I expected, his dramatic scenes work well enough but when compared to how Ralph Macchio did it in the original as Daniel, it can off as hammy. Hong Kong action legend Jackie Chan puts on an incredible performance as the rough, grumpy and emotional broken Mr. Han which is a complete contrast to the iconic wise, humble and eccentric Mr. Miyagi played by Pat Morita, which truly helps the character stand on his own feet, you truly sense that cold and broken tragedy of character when gradually get to know his story. While the Hong Kong film legend had his share of dramatic in Hong Kong films like Crime Story (no connection to Chanís iconic Police Story film series) and Shinjuku Incident, this is the first time Jackie ever gave an almost straight dramatic performance in an American production and so far his best performance in one so far.
Both Smith and Chan have this pretty well made developed student-teacher chemistry that is one of the true highlights of the film along with Chanís performance. The chemistry truly develops as both characters get to grow and develop. Like in the original, you have the usual training sequence, with its montage only instead of an 80ís rock song, you a very Asian orchestra score that lends itself well to the montage (though I still prefer the originalís training montage). Of course one of the scenes that caused sort of a stir among moviegoers before its release was replacing the iconic ďwax on, wax offĒ scene with a ďjacket on, jacket offĒ scene, although a weird change at first, I do kind of the see the point once they start training although Iím not all that knowledgeable in Chinese Martial Arts.
The supporting cast do a good job for the most part, Academy Award nominee Taraji P. Henson gives a nice performance (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) as Dreís loving, hardworking and no-nonsense mother Sherry, who shares a nice chemistry with Jayden Smith for their charactersí mother and son relationship and she does show that strong but motherly love however when compared to the 1984 filmís Lucille LaRusso (Soapís and Mad Menís Randee Heller) from the 1984 film, she sort of seems like an airhead at times. Chinese child actress and violinist Wenwen Han, plays Dreís love interest Meiying has that sweet, kind and supportive charm to her and she does fit the role in generic movie girlfriend sort of way pretty much like her 1984 counterpart, Ali Mills played Academy Award nominee Elizabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas, Back To The Future Part II & II, Adventures in Babysitting). Her chemistry with Jaydenís Dre is sweet and all but I prefer the way the original did it, mostly because of the age issue.
Veteran Hong Kong actor and martial artist Yu Rongguang (New Police Story, Shanghai Noon, Swordsman III, Musa aka. The Warrior) plays Mr. Li, a Kung Fu teacher who instructs his students to be merciless towards their opponents, unlike his 1984 counterpart John Kreese played by Martin Kove, Li is played more seriously and less campy than Kreese was. The young boys who play Cheng and his gang definitely have the bully feel down and are shown to have skill (Chengís actor Zhenwei Wang is a two time gold medallist at Beijingís Youth Wushu Competition) but I feel they might have over did it in that respect as Chengís gang feel more like little kung fu soldiers of destruction than just kids, I donít know how things are in China but I wasnít expecting this, it worked better in the 1984 because the Cobra Kai gang were a group of hooligan teenagers while their counterparts in the remake are basically kids, itís just disturbing to me.
If there was one supporting character that was kind of useless itís Harry (Luke Carberry), whoís completely wasted in this film, weíre introduced to the character early on as another Western resident in China that Dre befriends but when Dre gets beaten up by the Chengís gang and starts training with Han, we donít see him until near the end of the movie during the tournament. At least it made sense not using Freddy Fernandez (Isabel Juarbe) all that much in the 1984 film because we were shown him hesitating to talk to Daniel and actually making fun of him but is also seen cheering for Daniel in the end.
Overall, not a great movie but still a good one especially with the many less than stellar remakes being made these days.
I give this movie, 3 and half jackets out of five.
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I did, I just thought since it wasn't in the Movie Reviews section, I thought I might as well post my review.
Originally Posted by Gidi
I thought the remake sucked ass big time
Now I feel stupid for forgetting to mention Mr. Li's actor Yu Rongguang also played the titular character in Iron Monkey.
Yes, as Dr. Yang/Monkey
Donnie Yen was in that movie too, as Wong Kei Ying, the father of Fei Hong. Such an awesome movie.