The Karate Kid is one of those iconic 80's films, a flick that helped defined a decade. Sweep the leg. Make good fight Daniel-san. Mercy is for the weak. And so on. It is a movie that is so good it could be argued that it doesn't ever need to be remade. Except it was remade a lot in The Karate Kid goes to Japan, The Karate Kid gets squashed by Batman in 1989, The Next Hilary Swank and now Will Smith and Jada Pinkett buy their son a movie. The Karate Kid 2010.
One nice thing about their son Jaden Smith starring is the lead character really is a kid this time out. One not so nice thing is that there is barely any Karate seen in the film, it's 99.9999% Kung Fu. It really should be The Kung Fu Kid but then people won't get that this is a remake since there's no Ralph Macchio anywhere to be found and maybe skip it. Can't have that!
As far as remakes go, The Karate Kid is pretty savvy. It is a pretty true remake in terms of story, other than some modern touches and location (China) they hit all the same plot points in the same order. No "I must change things to stamp my vision even when it gets in the way of the movie" junk here. The filmmakers instead say "You know the story, seen it a thousand times, so let's adrenalize this thang!" And in using movie style Kung Fu the amount of leaping and jumping goes way up anyway.
So this Karate Kid whizzes by with breakneck speed, montaging and flying cameras all over the damn place. Hey, they're working out on The Great Wall with no tourists around! Now they're on a mountain! Now they're running through The Forbidden City! Although it would be fun to say this shallow approach fails, it doesn't. It succeeds in pumping new life into the tired heart of this classic "Beat the odds" yarn. Particularly at the ending tournament section, the event video screen coverage for this local martial arts tournament looks like Mortal Kombat on a WWE binge. Every take down in slo mo replays and then scowling headshots with the names next to it, I was waiting to hear "Finish Him!" Oh wait, I did hear that in the movie.
Jaden Smith as the lead kid is OK, his acting can get a bit blank but he has his Dad's cocksure goofy charisma. Jackie Chan is great as mentoring maintenance guy Mr Han, getting to unleash some of his acting chops alongside his physical ones (he cries more than the kid). Whoever the kid is that plays the chief mean guy is a real presence, I hated that bullying psycho every time he sneered his way onto the screen.
For a generation of children who can't imagine learning martial arts without a DVD, The Karate Kid has been successfully updated. And it's kinda timely with the increase in bullying children in our society. The only fault I can find is the soundtrack - no Survivor, Peter Cetera or "You're The Best" Joe Esposito here. Which reminds me, time to post one of the greatest movie montages of all time.