Review: Karate Kid (2010)
With the original Karate Kid (1984) encapsulating everything that we loved about ‘80s teen movies – and still do – it was with a great degree of scepticism I decided to watch the re-imagining of this coming-of-age story.
For a start, the high school senior Daniel LaRusso, (forgetting the fact Ralph Macchio was already in his twenties when filming began) from New Jersey was replaced by a 12-year-old kid called Dre (played by Jaden Smith, son of Will) and it was hard to see how a younger Karate Kid (or more appropriate kung fu kid) would make for a decent story.
Add to that the fact that Mr. Miyagi has gone down in history as one of the best on screen teacher characters ever (played by the late Pat Morita), it left a lot for Jackie Chan’s caretaker Mr. Han to do.
Well, I can say that the film certainly does a better job than I thought it would. While nothing can compare to the original which is still one of my all-time favourite feel-good films, it is more than watchable.
The plot is essentially the same with Dre being dragged to a new place (this time China, not L.A) by his widowed mother (Taraji P. Henson), a land where he has no friends and as a stranger finds he just doesn’t fit in. Add to this, the fact he is the target for local kung fu trained bullies headed by class leader Cheng giving him a longing to get even, and you have the basic outline for a film-defining final confrontation to try and win back his respect.
The performance by Chan is particularly endearing to viewers as he goes from quiet recluse mourning the loss of his family to kung fu teacher, with his complex Mr. Han helping the film to rise from mediocrity. However, that is not to say that Smith doesn’t do a decent job as the charismatic and likeable Dre, but the old master ensures that the action is bumped up a notch while he is felling villains and teaching his pupil the unorthodox ways of kung fu – think “put coat on, put coat off” instead of “wax on, wax off”, although I must say the original had a better way of making mundane tasks seem like martial arts!
The friendship development with classmate Mei Ying is the typical forbidden love scenario, and is no match for Elisabeth Shue’s Ali Mills and her shouldn’t-really-work-but-rather-strangely-does chemistry with Macchio, but the scenes with Cheng make for interesting – if not gripping – scenes. As you will have guessed it is down to maintenance man Mr. Han to teach Dre what kung fu is REALLY about – and nothing to do with that “enemy deserves no mercy” nonsense.
2 hours and 20 minutes of screen time may be more like the norm these days but it does seem a bit overlong and stretched out. It does play on its stereotypical Chinese surroundings too, but with the beautiful scenery and architecture on offer, who wouldn’t?
The music served its purpose but, in my mind, it was certainly no match from the master of instrumental film scores, Bill Conti, with his melodic pan flutes encapsulating the action. I also admit I was (and still am) partial to the 80s cheesy music too. Afraid so.
Overall, while it is nowhere near as compelling and endearing as the original movie, the good intentions of this version do remain intact at the film’s conclusion. This is largely due to Chan’s character which brings a kind of freshness to a predictable enough story. The Karate Kid is worth seeing, for a bit of Saturday night popcorn entertainment, but I wouldn’t recommend the filmmakers to remake the sequel. Now that would be one step too far.No Comments
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