Karate Kid (2010)

I thought I told you that we won’t stop…

Main Cast: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan

Director:  Harald Zwart

Half-way through The Karate Kid, I half-expected Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff to pop up in shiny suits and jewelry and start screaming that line.

I thought I told you that we won’t stop. I thought I told that we won’t stop.

This new version of The Karate Kid is more remix than remake. Will and Jada’s baby boy Jaden stars in the old Ralph Macchio Daniel-san role. He looks nothing like Macchio did, and his role is much younger. He’s also an 11-year old playing a 12-year old, while Macchio was a 23-year old playing a high school teenager.

Instead of Pat Morita, you have Jackie Chan in the Mr. Miyagi role. Chan’s karate is much more authentic, though is charm is a bit lesser than Morita’s.

And instead of the movie being played in Southern California, we’re taken to Beijing, China. Talk about taking the fish out of water concept and blowing it up.

I thought I told you that we won’t stop, I thought I told that we won’t stop.

If you don’t know the story, it’s quite simple. The new kid on the block is picked on and in order to defend himself, he needs to learn a martial art to not only defend himself, but also to drive fear away.

We live in a remix society and the movie industry is simply following suit of the music industry from the late 90s. It’s much harder to make hits and make superstars these days, so the move now is to go the well time and time again. Eventually, as shown by the music industry, that water will run dry and you’re going to have create once again. But as long as you make good remixes like The Karate Kid, I think the remix genre will be ok. Can’t say the same for The Land Of The Lost though.

This new version of the film follows the old film very closely. If you’ve seen the Ralph Macchio/Pat Morita version of the film in the last two years, you’ll see where everything is going. I spent most of the time watching to see how faithful they were going to be. But if you haven’t seen the original in more than a few years, you’ll be able to watch it as a new film.

Jaden Smith (Shao Dre) is going to be an uber-star. He has all the charm of his dad, the sweetness, yet sensibility of his mom, and he’s a perfect package of dynamite and candy. There’s a certain rawness to his acting, but you can also tell he’s a Hollywood kid and he knows what he’s doing every step of the way.

When I heard about the casting, I knew Jackie Chan was going to ruin the soul of the movie. Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi was the MVP of the first film. Ralph Macchio was far too old, too unathletic and overly dramatic to exist as an actual athlete. Thus, it was Morita who helped us suspend our disbelief for a couple of hours with his quick wit and ethnic wisdom. I’m half-Japanese and I knew that Mr. Miyagi had to be related to me somehow.

(And by the way, by the time the third film came out and Macchio was every part of 35-years old and had this gigantic rear end, you couldn’t wait for Morita to come on the screen.)

But I was wrong. Chan had some big shoes to fill. And if Mr. Miyagi’s shoe size was a 9 1/2, Jackie Chan probably filled it up about 80% of it. He absolutely didn’t drop the ball and that’s all that matters.

Changing the scenery was absolutely the right decision. Filming in China and basing the movie there made it seem just remixed enough to where you didn’t feel like it was a rip-off. The sequel to the original film was set in Japan, so there’s a bit of a familiarity to it being in a foreign country, but again, unless you’ve seen that film in the last five years, it probably won’t bother you.

Another smart decision was to make the martial arts moves much more advanced. You see a bit of jiu-jitsu, high flying kicks, and really creative choreography. I have to admit that even though I knew what was coming, I was anxious to see the final strike in the kung fu tournament.

And Jaden Smith can pull it all off. Ralph Macchio couldn’t kick you or me if we turned our backs and painted a bullseye on our rear end. But Smith just looks like an athletic kid. He pulls off all the flashy maneuvers and just looks the part.

If I have to gripe about some of the acting, it’s that Taraji P. Henson shouldn’t have been in the film. She’s too good of an actress to play Shao Dre’s mother Sherry, in such a throwaway part. In fact, having Jaden Smith’s real mom Jada Pinkett-Smith would’ve been a smarter move.

In the end, it’s missing some of what made the original so fun: Daniel-san being in high school and chasing a girl so out of his league that it becomes comical, him using a bike as his mode of transportation while everyone else has cars, and the near Brokeback Mountain relationship between he and Miyagi. Wait, did I say that?

But it also brings the new flavor to the series and I’ll pay again to see Jaden Smith take his kung fu styles some where else in a few years.

I thought I told you that we won’t stop, I thought I told that we won’t stop.

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