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Movie Review: The Karate Kid

June 11, 2010

The Karate Kid – A Sony Pictures’ Release

http://www.karatekid-themovie.com/

Release Date: June 11th

Rated PG for violence

Running time: 139 minutes

Harald Zwart (dir.)

Christopher Murphey (screenplay)

Robert Mark Kamen (story)

James Horner (music)

Jaden Smith as Dre Parker

Jackie Chan as Mr. Han

Taraji P. Henson as Sherry Parker

Wenwen Han as Meiying

Rongguang Yu as Master Li

Zhensu Wu as Meiying’s Dad

Zhiheng Wang as Meiying’s Mom

Zhenwei Wang as Cheng

Photo by Jasin Boland – © 2009 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith in The Karate Kid.

Our reviews below:

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The Karate Kid Review By John C.

** (out of 4)

I have fond memories of watching the original Karate Kid films on TV.  They always had such a coolness about them, especially for kids, in the way they put forth the message of standing up for yourself.  And Mr. Miyagi was a wise, peaceful character, that always managed to teach such good life lessons.  The Karate Kid (2010) is an almost scene-for-scene remake of that 1984 film, and to say that it doesn’t live up to a preexisting classic is an understatement.

Jaden Smith stars as Dre Parker.  A 12-year-old who is moved with his mother from Detroit to China.  After run-ins with the school bullies, he is taken under the wing of Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) to trade his karate skills for kung fu.  We get the tournament, and we even get a nod to the fly-catching chopsticks of the original, only Mr. Han uses a fly swatter – the first sign that this master is not as peaceful as Mr. Miyagi.

One thing that annoyed me right off the bat was, why do they try to copy the original almost exactly, yet at the same time change some of the most famous things?  The first of which is changing the country of origin from Okinawa to China, and the second being that karate is never actually featured in the film.

This is only the first of the film’s problems.  It drags on for about 40 minutes longer than it should, and the mid-section feels very bloated.  But the main reason why this Karate Kid left me feeling disappointed, was the fact that it is centred around 12-year olds.  The romantic stuff here just doesn’t work.  What was sweet in the original, is just kind of lame here – we even get Dre’s love-interest dancing to Lady Gaga.  This story just works so much better with teenagers.

The biggest problem is that, for me, watching a bunch of 12-year olds ruthlessly beat each other up, even in a tournament, just elicited more cringes than cheers.  The first encounter with the bullies, happens for no apparent reason, on a cement playground.  Dre gets smashed against the ground several times – in slow motion.  Lacking the physical injury you would realistically get from this type of beating, it sadly could encourage kids to try it themselves.  This one actually manages to be more violent, while delivering a less peaceful message.  The first one ended with the graceful use of the “Crane.”  This one ends with what is more of a choreographed fist fight.

But on the flipside, there is some good stuff here.  Although lacking the real spark of the original, I did enjoy some of the interactions between Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan, both turning in good performances, and some of the training montages and stylistic choices are very cool.  I also liked watching the scenery of China, and the use of cultural landmarks and customs was somewhat beautiful.

It’s not really a bad movie, and it does sometimes provide a bit of mild entertainment.  But, very reluctantly, I just can’t recommend it.  There is something intrinsically wrong about it, both in its level of violence amongst young kids, and in the fact that it tries to copy the original, yet fails at either being something new, or in paying homage.  This new Karate Kid should have had me cheering, but ultimately left me yearning for the greatness of the original.  Hopefully it will inspire that classic to reach a new generation of kids.

___________________________________________________________________________The Karate Kid Review By Erin V.

**1/2 (out of 4)

On it’s own, there are elements that make this film work – but when compared to the original that wasn’t in need of a reboot, it’s messages get skewered along the way.

This new version of The Karate Kid, (which is more accurately about a Kung Fu kid…), despite being a practically scene for scene remake, has a harsher, less peaceful tone than the 1984 film.  In the original, the kid Daniel, is trained Karate by the Yoda-esque Mr. Miyagi.  Here, Dre Parker is being trained Kung Fu by a guy called Mr. Han.  While Mr. Han is played by Jackie Chan, the typical Chan-humour isn’t really here, which is unfortunate, since Mr. Miyagi had a good sense of humour about him, (one of the many things that made the original really work).

Another difference is that while Daniel was 17, Dre is only 12.  And, while there seemed to be realistic rivalries developing between Daniel and the bullies, in this new version, it seems like the bunch of kids just beat up Dre for not much other than being an outsider.  Also, the bullies are a lot bigger here – looking like they are older than 12, while Dre looks younger far than this.  This makes the fights look meaner and completely uneven, like teenagers are picking on a little kid – and throwing him repeatedly to the cement.  In the first film, they all looked about the same age – and that same scene took place on a sandy beach.

It’s not that I hated the film though – there were a few scenes in there that I found did strike the right chords.  But they were more little touches than completely redeemable qualities for a whole (over-long) 2 hour 19 minute movie.  I liked the scenery, the music worked, and the acting was fine throughout.  Certain scenes like the mountain scenes, as well as a cool training session in silhouette, worked.  I just wish the feeling of the original had been there throughout.

There’s no doubt about one thing though – in a lot of theatres, this will be a real crowd pleaser.  Whether just really enjoying the film, or for the nostalgia of a Karate Kid movie, the audience I saw it with was audibly cheering at times.  It wasn’t my reaction to the final fight – which I found kind of mean/unbelievable (the size of some of the ‘kids’ pitted against Dre???) – but, to each their own.  It’s not a bad one to see this summer – I possibly would have liked it better when I was younger – but it is certainly no substitute for the original, definitely not for young children (could use a ‘don’t try this at home, kids’ warning), and could wait to be checked out on DVD.

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The Karate Kid Review By Nicole

**1/2 (out of 4)

Based on the original movie the 1980’s, The Karate Kid is an updated copy, with some changes.  In this version, Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) is a 12-year old African-American boy from Detroit, moves with his widowed mother to China.  In his new home, Dre is mercilessly bullied by his classmates, presumably out of racism.  Out of fear for his own safety, Dre wants to learn martial arts.  The bullies have been taught a really brutal form of kung fu by a psychopathic master, who tells his students to “show no mercy.”  Luckily for Dre, the maintenance worker at his apartment happens to be a kung fu master named Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), who trains Dre for an upcoming competition, so he can win over the bullies.

The Karate Kid follows the original almost scene for scene.  What is different is, this film is about kung fu not karate, at the title suggests.  The biggest difference is the tone of the two films.  In the original, while the fighting was rough, it was what you might expect from a rough gang of teenagers.  Coming from preteens, however, is shocking.  Watching Dre (Jaden Smith), who looks no more than 9, be beaten senseless by kids who appear 14, is painful to watch.  While the original film explains that martial arts are for self-defense only, this film depicts the end battle as a kick-butt fight.

Despite the negative aspects of the film, there were a lot of scenes I liked.  The training sequences between Mr. Han and Dre were beautifully choreographed.  I also liked the scenes on the mountaintop.  These portions seemed to capture the low-key tone of the original.

I wouldn’t recommend kids under 12 see this film.  Older kids can check this movie out, but after seeing it, watch the original.

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The Karate Kid Review By Maureen

**1/4 (out of 4)

There will likely be two distinct audience groups wanting to see this new Karate Kid movie.  The first will be those who remember and enjoyed the original Karate Kid movies.  The second will be pre-teens who think Jackie Chan and martial arts are cool, or Jaden Smith is cute, or those who want to hear the Justin Bieber song Never Say Never.  Viewers in the first groups will likely find this movie to be a disappointment.  I know I did.

The overall plot-line sticks closely to the original.  The main differences being the story is set in China, the martial art is kung fu and the principle character is twelve years old.  It is the difference in age that just didn’t work for me.  While Jaden Smith is a cute kid and a fine young actor the level of violence in the fight scenes seemed wrong with his opponents looking to be at least in the 14 to 18 range.  The scene where Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) is attacked by the young Chinese bullies in the concrete play area is particularly brutal.  I also found Dre’s love interest to the young violin prodigy hard to believe as she looked older.

The scenes with Dre Parker and his mentor, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) are okay but lack a real emotional connection.  Some of the martial arts training scenes were interesting and lovely to watch.  I especially enjoyed the glimpse into the cultural side of kung fu and seeing the beautiful mountainside scenery of China.

While there are some nice moments in this movie its appeal will be mainly to those looking for some serious martial arts fighting.  I would rather watch the original Karate Kid movies again on DVD.  Their tone seems more in keeping with the underlying spirit of how and why one would use martial arts.

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The Karate Kid Review By Tony

** (out of 4)

The Karate Kid, a reworking of the original 1984 film, suffers by comparison in most respects.  The fact that the title itself is a misnomer, Chinese kung fu replacing Japanese karate, is the least of its problems. Jackie Chan’s Mr. Han has little of the elegance or spirituality of the original Miyagi-san, nor the humour we would expect from a Chan role. For example, demanding that the boy Dre begin training by endlessly putting on and taking off his jacket makes much less sense than useful chores in lieu of tuition. Moreover, Han’s commemoration of the anniversary of his wife’s death is inconsistent with Miyagi’s pacifist views. Jaden Smith is very good, but given his small size he appears to be somewhat younger than his opponents and the girl he likes.  The violence is up a notch or two from the original, all the more disturbing when 17+ year olds are replaced by 12 year olds. For example in the original bully attack, rather than being pushed around on a beach as in the previous film, Dre is repeatedly thrown down, hitting his head each time on the hard stone ground.

There are some technical problems unworthy of a big budget film.  Many scenes are shot dark and grainy, with some shaky camera work.  Recovery time between matches after an injury was reduced from 15 minutes to a ridiculous 2 minutes, and once Dre limped out for his final bout, he seemed to momentarily forget his injury, bobbing and weaving as usual.

There were some good things in this version that stuck to the original premise of the franchise.  Jackie Chan’s fight with the bullies was as impressive as expected. The rival instructor kept pretty much to the same script in both versions (show no mercy, etc) and the Chinese actor speaking his Chinese lines with subtitles even bore some resemblance to his square-jawed American counterpart. The Chinese setting was interesting. We were left with at least one lasting image, of a woman charming a cobra while balancing on one leg on a mountaintop temple gargoyle.

In summary, the 2010 Karate Kid is not bad, but the originals were a lot better.

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Consensus: The Karate Kid (2010) lacks what made the original so special.  That film’s messages of peace are traded for a more violent approach – all involving younger kids.  Watching 12-year olds ruthlessly beat each other up just becomes hard to watch.  This unneeded reboot, despite a few good moments, is ultimately a disappointment. **1/4 (Out of 4)

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