The Karate Kid
is a pretty perfect
primer in how to totally screw up a remake of a well-known film.
The answer is pretty simple.
Over think it. Make unnecessary and excessive changes just for the sake of
making them. Despite the fact that the script is somewhat faithful to the
basic storyline of the 1984 favorite, the premise has been monkeyed around with just enough to make the film feel significantly lesser.
The basic storyline is
still good enough that the new film is somewhat enjoyable; however, the new
film feels such a desperate need to make everything bigger and better that
it eventually has the opposite effect – making the pleasure of the audience
For example, why exactly do
they feel they have to so completely change the lifestyle of the title
character? He goes from moving with his mother from New Jersey to the
Valley right outside of LA in the original to moving from Detroit to
Beijing, China in this installment. (Don't the filmmakers know he is not
supposed to go to Asia until they remake
The Karate Kid II?)
Really, other than some unnecessary shots of Daniel-san (oh, I'm sorry,
young Dre) practicing on the great wall of China and having all the bad guys
speak in Mandarin with subtitles, what does the
new setting really add to the story? In fact, why
China at all? The handyman-turned-karate teacher upon whom the story
revolved in the original film was Japanese.
while he does have a realistic screen presence as a
child, his acting is so lazy and lifeless that I can't imagine anyone hiring
him other than his mother and father – and, big surprise: Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith are both executive producers here. However, even beyond
his lack of his dad's acting charisma, Jaden’s casting is a much simpler and
more disturbing misstep on the filmmakers' part. In the original, it was a
seventeen year old kid being beaten up by other seventeen year old kids. He
was overmatched, sure, but the possibility of a fair fight did exist. Here
you have a twelve year old boy being beaten up by a bunch of fifteen or
sixteen year olds. That just seems wrong on every possible level.Even more troubling is the
lengths that the filmmakers went to shoehorn Jaden Smith into the role. In
They also changed the tone of
the movie to a darker, more austere, less feel-good vibe. Why, for example
did Mr. Miyagi (damn it, I mean Han) have to lose a ten year old child here
as well as his wife? Really, does that add anything to the story other than
a little more maudlin pathos?
Rather, a lot more
maudlin pathos, because at two hours and 20 minutes this film is at
the very least a
half hour too long.
Also, why soft-pedal
it with one of the most legendary sequences of the original film? The “wax
on, wax off” sequence was surprising because it looked like Mr. Miyagi was
exploiting his young student rather than teaching him. Mr. Han’s
technique? Making the kid hang up and take down his coat thousands of
times. Are there some child labor laws in China that
I haven't heard of? Beyond being simply less interesting visually, it is dramatically
much less intriguing because what the kid is doing may be menial, but it is
not really exactly labor. And, frankly, when those tasks are proven to be
martial arts moves, the new moves look little like the job he was given.
Hell, it isn't even about
karate anymore. It's about Kung Fu. You would assume
that a film called The Karate Kid would have at least some
karate in it. But, no, none of that here. However, the
title The Kung Fu Kid
does not have the built in
franchise value. Therefore, you have to assume the
kid and everyone around him simply don't know what kind of martial art he is performing.
So, what does this film do right? Not that much, although I do have to say
that Jackie Chan does relatively well with his role as the kid’s kung-fu
trainer/protector. Chan has never been a great actor but he works hard to
please the audience and he has some of his better dramatic moments here.
That said – and I never thought
I'd type these words – but Jackie Chan is no Pat Morita. Mr. Han does not
have the gleam in his eye or the sense of wisdom of his predecessor.
Then again, Jaden Smith is no
Ralph Macchio, which is really saying something. No one ever confused
Macchio for the ideal leading man, but in comparison he is head and
shoulders above his young successor.
In fact, the same
thing can be said about the versions of the movie in which each one of them
starred. The new Karate Kid is a harmless enough way to spend an
afternoon. In fact it has some very intriguing moments strewn about.
Still, in the long run it is merely a pale imitation of its predecessor.
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: July 9, 2010.