21 ago. 2010

My Review: The Karate Kid (6/10)

“Sometimes the most important fights are the ones you avoid.”

The Karate Kid, which should be called The Kung Fu Kid, is based on the famous 80`s movie starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita although this time the story takes place in China and the plot is a little different. Jaden Smith is the Ralph Macchio of this generation but he is much younger and Jackie Chan has a similar role to the one Pat Morita made famous as Mister Miyagi. I really couldn`t imagine these two actors playing these similar characters, but they did a great job and had great chemistry together. Chan was funny and at the same time he showed the wisdom his character needed to have. The famous chopstick and fly scene from the original Karate Kid is also used in this film, but with a nice twist. These sort of nostalgic elements that were introduced in the movie worked very well, and it was hard not to sympathize with Chan or Smith. Harald Zwart did a decent job with the direction of this movie, although at 140 minutes I felt it was too long. The other issue I had with the film is that it tries to preach against non violence, but it does it by using violence, and the main problem is that this time around the kids are even younger, they are twelve year olds. The scene where Chan has to defend himself from these kids who attack him just felt too awkward because you can`t help but think how a grown man would fight off these boys. Even though he never actually hits them, it still felt weird. Christopher Murphey did a decent job with the screenplay and brought us a more modern version of The Karate Kid without leaving out important details from the original.

Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) is a twelve year old only child living with his mother, Sherry (Taraji P. Henson), ever since his father passed away when he was younger and the film opens with Dre saying goodbye to his friends in Detroit because he is moving to China with his mom. Dre isn`t very excited about traveling to this new country and he isn`t interested in learning Chinese either. Once they arrive in China Dre meets a sweet girl from the neighborhood named Meiying (Wenwen Han) who happens to be a very talented cello player. But not everyone is as nice to Dre as Meiying is and he gets bullied by a group of kids who happen to know kung fu. The leader of the group is Cheng (Zhenwei Wang) whose sole purpose in the film is to make Dre`s life miserable. One day, when Dre is getting beat up by these bullies Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), the maintenance man from the apartment building Dre lives in, shows up and fights off the kids. Mr. Han befriends Dre who wants him to teach him Kung Fu. Mr. Han declines at first because he says Kung Fu is a way of life and not meant for violence and fighting, but after meeting the Kung Fu master (Rongguang Yu) where Cheng gets his training Mr. Han decides to sign Dre for the tournament in order for the kids to stop bullying him in school. Cheng promises to leave Dre alone so he can prepare for the tournament, Mr. Han begins training him and together they learn important lessons.

Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith are great together and they are the reason why the movie is above average because otherwise this is just a formulaic predictable film. One of the main differences this movie has with the original is that it takes place in China, which makes things all the more interesting because the scenery is beautiful. There are some great scenes of the Great Wall, of some temples in the mountaintops, and of the impressive National Stadium (the Bird`s Nest) constructed for the Olympics that just took place in Beijing. Zwart does a great job introducing us to the major touristic attractions in Beijing. The climax of the movie is also great with a very entertaining championship that takes place (which tops the original one). Fans of the original will be pleased as well as younger audiences who weren`t familiar with it. The main problem I had with this film is the age difference between the stars of the film. In the original Ralph was in his twenties, while in this movie Smith is a twelve year old so some of the fighting and training scenes seemed a little extreme for someone so young. I can`t help but remember a scene where Dre tells an old man who is beating him at ping pong “C`mon, man. I`m twelve.” That is what I kept on thinking when I saw this kid train so hard and fighting. The movie is still worth it because of the scenery and the great performances from Chan and Smith.

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