Remakes are rarely, if ever, met with open arms. There’s always trepidation from those who enjoyed the original that the remake will just destroy everything that is holy and good about the film they grew up with. While that kind of quick judgment may fall under “judging a book by its cover,” if cheap sequels and quick remakes that allow Hollywood to make a quick buck have taught us anything it’s that sequels and remakes are almost always a giant waste of time. When news of a The Karate Kid remake came out, however, it was not only met with snubbed noses and inverted thumbs but extreme pessimism once it came out that there wasn’t even karate in the film—it was all kung fu. It didn’t seem to matter to audiences much, however, as the film went on to gross over $350 million worldwide.
12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) could’ve been the most popular kid in Detroit, but his mother’s (Taraji P. Henson) latest career move has landed him in China. Dre immediately falls for his classmate Mei Ying – and the feeling is mutual – but cultural differences make such a friendship impossible. Even worse, Dre’s feelings make an enemy of the class bully, Cheng. In the land of kung fu, Dre knows only a little karate, and Cheng puts “the karate kid” on the floor with ease. With no friends in a strange land, Dre has nowhere to turn but maintenance man Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), who is secretly a master of kung fu. As Han teaches Dre that kung fu is not about punches and parries, but maturity and calm, Dre realizes that facing down the bullies will be the fight of his life.
While I definitely enjoyed the originals as a kid, they were never part of the group of films I watched repeatedly. In fact I daresay I’ve only seen the originals once or twice each—there just isn’t a lot about those films I was drawn to. Now watching this “new” film there really isn’t a whole lot about this one that’s all that engrossing to me either, but I will admit it was pretty fun to watch regardless. Although by the end of the film I’m not sure how there’s a big tournament where children beat up other children—I know it’s a sport or whatever, but there was some truly brutal stuff depicted in this film. It probably didn’t help that the kids actually looked incredibly young. But that’s just a minor thing, really—it’s all in the spirit of the film and the finale really is quite impressive.
Despite the films lengthy run time (nearly two and a half hours), it really didn’t seem to drag on all that much. The scenes in the film all felt pertinent for one reason or another and even the filler bits felt welcome somehow; particularly enjoyable was the interaction between Chan and Smith’s characters, which is thankful because the entire film rested on their shoulders. While Chan did feel underutilized at times, by the time we get to his breakdown in the car the whole revelation about why his character was so quiet and unrelenting in some aspects becomes devastatingly clear. Combine that with Smith’s performance that ranges from humorous to heartwarming and you have a nice and tidy little gut-wrencher of a film at times.
Just about the only element of the film I didn’t like was how vague they were about why they ended up in China. There’s a throwaway line about moving there for a job, but considering it’s such an emotional time in the lives of both Dre and Sherry Parker, you would think they expound on that a little bit more. Of course it already is almost at two and a half hours long, so maybe its best that they just leave it be. Just about the only other thing I would want from this film would be more kung fu from Chan—he did surprisingly little. Smith’s action scenes were pretty fantastic though—I could see the sequel to this film being much better than the first, assuming they don’t recycle plot points.
Overall a Recommended title. I found myself enjoying it way more than I thought I would, but that definitely wasn’t a bad thing.
Sony releases The Karate Kid to both Blu-ray and DVD, although for this review I’ll be going over the DVD release only. It arrives in a standard amaray style DVD case without any fancy inserts or anything; the extras are disturbingly slim on this release, but I assume the Blu-ray has a better selection. Video for this film looks clean and clear and what you’d expect from a modern production and the DD5.1 audio brings to life the sounds of all the kung fu and China as the story progresses. There are quite a few forceful punches and kicks felt throughout and they definitely keep the surrounds and LFE awake.
Chinese Lessons – Learn Chinese!
Music Video: Justin Bieber Featuring Jaden Smith “Never Say Never”
Just for Kicks: The Making of The Karate Kid
I was perfectly content not ever hearing a Bieber song and then I run into this mess. Well I couldn’t call it a mess because after about 10 seconds of it and realizing what I was in for, I immediately shut it off. No thank you, I shall pass on that one! The making of is a typical EPK style fluff piece, although it has some decent behind the scenes goodies. The Chinese segment is brief, but I guess interesting for those who want to go to China someday.
Overall a release worth a Rental. There just aren’t many extras and the film, while entertaining, just doesn’t really scream “repeat viewing” to me.
The Karate Kid is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.