Things to consider when watching the 2010 version of The Karate Kid:
- Throw the haterade out and watch with an open mind.
- Nevermind the film is called The Karate Kid and should have been called The Kung-Fu Kid instead. In my opinion, the latter title sounds corny particularly because it’s a remake of the former. The film isn’t about whatever martial arts is showcased but about bullies and learning to stand up for yourself. I can see why they just kept with the former.
- Will Smith actually makes decent heartfelt films.
- China money makes for a very travel postcard-esque cinematography.
Despite all that works against remaking a beloved classic, including calling it something completely different, the Smith’s re-interpretation of The Karate Kid lives up only to the spirit of nostalgia, but cleverly separates and arguably exceeds beyond the original. More, after the jump.
Dre Parker (Jaden Smith), moves out of the popularity of his Detroit neighborhood and relocates to the unknown of China when his mom finds work at a car manufacturing facility in Beijing. In an attempt to familiarize himself with his new neighborhood he visits the local park where he unwittingly distracts a girl practicing the violin. This angers the jealous bully who sics his band of kung-fu thugs on him and continue to torment him in school and throughout the playground. Unable to tell his mom, who is optimistic and determined to make Beijing her new home, he seeks the help of the grumpy building maintenance man, Mr. Han (a very disheveled Jackie Chan).
Mr. Han, however refuses to help Dre out, but goes with him to speak with the bully’s kung-fu instructor in order to make peace. The instructor, however, challenges Mr. Han and Dre to a fight. Unsettled by the values taught in the class, Mr. Han enters Dre in the kung-fu tournament claiming they will fight there and until such time, the bullies are to leave Dre alone to train.
What follows is a surprising, well thought out story and script marked by Jackie Chan actually being able to showcase his dramatic acting talent in a North American film. Less schlocky than the 80s classic, one can immediately see the filmmakers took really good care in respecting the spirit of the original and creating a film that ultimately exceeded my expectations. Mind you, I could have done without the puppy romance and the ‘Love from Beijing’ postcard style cinematography, but otherwise, it was an extremely enjoyable film that both entertains, inspires and teaches decent values.
Smith as Dre is very much like the beloved fast talking Fresh Prince his father embodied for so many years. Chan as Mr. Han, is quite the departure as the troubled grumpy maintenance man from his usual suave persona. Supporting characters including the bully (no sissy boys here) and the puppy love interest all seem very natural and have a bright future in front of the camera.
Personal thoughts on the controversy: If it was anyone else other than Will Smith on this production, I would’ve written them off immediately including Asian Cinephile Tarantino. For some reason, the community seemed to overlook the fact that he put Hollywood money on an Asian American film where not a single punch was thrown, Saving Face. On that alone, he automatically was given a chance in my book.
As Edward pointed out via his conversation with a protester of the film, you really have to watch the film before you make any judgments either way. The friend who had invited me to the press screening, film critic and Asian, had her doubts. Halfway through the film, I leaned to her and said, “This is surprisingly good.” She concluded, “I think it’s almost better than the original.”