Sunday, June 13, 2010


Sadly, by writing this review I have to shamefully admit I have never seen the original The Karate Kid. I've seen pieces channel surfing and know all the famous parts, but have never sat down for a full viewing. With that in mind, I cannot compare old school to remake. Either way, that does not steal any greatness that was the 2010 The Karate Kid. I enjoyed this movie so much, I would even consider it one of the best movies I have seen this year. That said, let's get to it.
The story follows twelve year-old Dre (Jaden Smith) and his mother (Taraji P. Henson) moving from Detroit and making a new home in China because of a job relocation. Dre has a hard time fitting into his new environment. A difficult transition into the Chinese culture drives him to dislike his unfamiliar surroundings. He finds solace in a cute girl who catches his attention, but the school bullies are not kind to a stranger stealing her affections. The gang makes Dre's life even worse as they use their martial arts skills to beat up the new kid.
One day the bullies are beating Dre up at the door of the older and wiser Mr. Han, played by Jackie Chan. Mr. Han agrees to train Dre to protect himself against the beatings and learn the peaceful ways of a martial arts master. The gauntlet is thrown down as the bullies are pitted against Dre in the upcoming Kung Fu tournament. 
The martial arts in the movie was exhilarating to watch. The players involved were masters of their craft, and their talent was rewarding to see. The fights were not only well choreographed, but the stakes were well defined by the telling of the story. The good execution of the tournament by The Karate Kid production team gives viewers a real sense of competition. The amazing slow motion replays of domination in the contests had me salivating for the beauty that is martial arts.
The writing in this movie was great at times and much weaker at others. The movie featured unraveling character development for Jaden Smith, but only pieces for Mr. Han and the love interest. All others were thrown by the wayside which seems odd considering this movie is over two hours long. 

The good writing in this movie established a strong three act structure for the story, the negatives of living in China weighing down on Dre, and a strong finish at the ending. The dialogue was flaky at times, and the movie is too cheesy at others. But all of this doesn't seem to matter if you allow yourself to sit back and enjoy the well executed project.
The most difficult thing to overcome when making a movie starring child actors is finding child actors that can actually act. The Karate Kid has a flourish of young talent that deliver performances that cause empathy for the characters and make this movie easy to buy into. Jaden Smith was spot on in his role for most of the movie. He had some parts where I wasn't convinced of his emotions, but he is still a talented actor. The parts where he turned on the waterworks really hit and allowed me to care for his character's dilemma. 
The young Chinese girl catching Dre’s interest is played well by Wenwen Han. She delivers a good performance making the audience feel sympathetic for the pressure created by her family to succeed as a violinist. Hatred is one of the strongest emotions struck while watching the gang of bullies beating up Dre. These young Asian actors not only played their parts decently, but pulled off their role as antagonists very well. As the mentor and friend of young Dre, Jackie Chan also brought something to the table on the emotional scale. Chan usually does not impress me with his acting chops, but this movie he really succeeded as the role of a wise teacher.
Overall, The Karate Kid is driven by a sense of childhood discovery shadowing young Dre as he tries to find his place amongst the Chinese culture. The narrative takes a long time to get moving, but that whole time was spent developing the main character and the conflict. The movie is full of scenes dripping with emotions causing me at times to choke up to the beautifully crafted scenes by Director Harald Zwart and Co. There were little inconsistencies that bothered me, but the quality pieces in this project were so good or amazing it envelopes the viewer in enjoyment. 
The Karate Kid made $56 million this past weekend and has received generally positive ratings. If you have to chose between this and The A-Team, at least be confident this movie is solid. Get out and see some of this quality summer cinema at your local theaters. 

Share Your Thoughts Through Your Facebook Account