Title: The Karate Kid
Starring: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson, Zhenwei Wang, Han Wen Wen
Director: Harald Zwart
Duration: 140 mins
Released: 15 November 2010
Format: Blu-ray/DVD Double Play / DVD
Can Will Smith Jr. make this remake of The Karate Kid as powerful and fun as the original? Daniel Larusso (Ralph Macchio) and Pat Morita (Mr. Miyagi) were the perfect 80s team. Larusso was the young kid who moves to California and gets beaten up by the local tough guys, but then learns the ways of Karate, wins the girl and beats the bad guys under the watchful eye and guidance of the sage, Karate Master, Mr Miyagi with his ‘wax on, wax off’, ‘paint the fence’ style of teaching. That film easily stands the test of time as any 80s kid knows. It’s still very watchable and well loved. It’s also available on Blu-ray. It’s a true 80s classic along with Gremlins, Indiana Jones, The Goonies and Back to the Future. The Karate Kid sequels were less satisfying so could this re-imaging/reboot, reinvigorate the franchise and spawn sequels of its own? Well actually it’s more of a straights remake. The action is moved from California to China and the Karate Kid is a little younger but the plot is basically the same and there are plenty of moments to watch out for where the dialogue is very similar or even exactly the same. It’s different but it’s the same. It’s a really fun, exciting film, and it’s not just for kids either. I really enjoyed it. I’d not rushed to see it at the cinema, preferring to wait to catch it on Blu-ray and although I thought it would be good, in fact I was a little surprised just how much I enjoyed it.
Jaden Smith is getting stronger with every film and naturally more experienced with age, he’s most definitely a chip off the old Smith/Pinkett block. His performance is very impressive. He clearly learnt real kung fu and his physical performance is quite outstanding. It knocks the socks of anything from the original film. Sure, Smith may be on wires for some of the moves but it’s clear that he’s genuinely doing what we are seeing on screen. As for Jackie Chan, the old master himself, I’ve never been a fan. I’m not a fan of the whole chop-socky genre. As Mr Han, the maintenance man, who just happens to be a kung fu master he only gets one chance to do his thing but he delivers a knockout performance with a very impressive scene in which he defends himself and Dre (Smith) from a group of young aggressive kung fu thugs. The scene, as is his whole performance is fun, humorous and heartfelt.
The direction is also certainly solid, and although it may lack a few of the flourishes of John G. Avildsen’s original film it is still very satisfactory and maybe it has a few of its own. It does not let us down on the montage front either, there’s plenty of ‘wax on, wax off’ muscle-memory style training, all new and improved and inspired by Chan. The pacing is also good, especially considering the length of the film, indeed there are very few times at all when the action or drama seems to slow down which is an achievement in itself. Who would have thought that a film about karate, a remake no less, would span a full two hours and twenty minutes, let alone, be watchable throughout? And if it does sag just a touch somewhere in the middle, it truly soars at the end with a climatic wushu tournament and one hell of a killer kung fu move which easily rivals – hell I’m going to say it – outdoes the Larusso’s Crane kick. Wow.
The Karate Kid will have you punching the air in delight just like you did when Larusso proved that he was ‘the best around’ back in the 80s. It takes the original premise, improves on the production values and cranks up the kung fu action to the max.