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The Karate Kid Moves To China | by J.P. Langston and Richard R. Lee

06/12/10 | by JP | Categories: Films
Along with Jackie Chan, Will Smith’s little boy and his co-star in “The Pursuit of Happyness,” Jaden, leads the latest remake of “The Karate Kid.” Is it better than the 1984 original film? SidewalksTV.com's J.P. and Richard have their opposing reviews.

Follow up:

THE KARATE KID
MPAA Rating: This film has been rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for bullying, martial arts action violence and some mild language.
RUNNING TIME: 140 minutes
URL: karatekid-themovie.com

Directed by: Harald Zwart
Screenplay by: Christopher Murphey
Story by: Robert Mark Kamen
Produced by: Jerry Weintraub, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, James Lassiter, Ken Stovitz
Cast: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson

Studio Synopsis:
In Columbia Pictures' The Karate Kid, 12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) could've been the most popular kid in Detroit, but his mother's (Taraji P. Henson) latest career move has landed him in China. Dre immediately falls for his classmate Mei Ying - and the feeling is mutual - but cultural differences make such a friendship impossible. Even worse, Dre's feelings make an enemy of the class bully, Cheng. In the land of kung fu, Dre knows only a little karate, and Cheng puts "the karate kid" on the floor with ease. With no friends in a strange land, Dre has nowhere to turn but maintenance man Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), who is secretly a master of kung fu. As Han teaches Dre that kung fu is not about punches and parries, but maturity and calm, Dre realizes that facing down the bullies will be the fight of his life.


Jackie Chan as "Mr. Han" with Jaden Smith as "Dre Parker" in Columbia Pictures' THE KARATE KID.

J.P.'s Take:
Continuing with my 80's flashback theme, here's another remake of an iconic pop classic. This time “The Karate Kid” 2010 finds roots in China. It appears Jackie Chan and a young Jaden Smith breath new life into a freshened story line.

Yes, there are some obvious differences between the old and new “Karate Kid.” In place of Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) is Dre Parker (Jaden Smith), while Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) has replaced Mr. Miyagi (the late Pat Morita). Additionally, instead of the main character moving from New Jersey to California, Dre and his mother Sherry Parker (Taraji P. Henson) move from Detroit to China. Those physical changes are apparent sure, but what hasn’t changed is the film’s premise. Those same principles instilled in Daniel, such as respect, self-determination, strength, and courage, are brought forth much more dramatically. I actually enjoyed this version almost as much I did the original.

The characters are likable, if a bit plain. The young Smith brings an impressive energy to Dre. He’s not just a kid actor playing a role and reciting his line; he does it with a type of conviction found in many adult actors. However, he’s a kid in real life, so how difficult can it be. I also love the fact that he’s physical and has such a bold presence on screen. Smith never hides in the background of any scene; he’s almost always out in front. You can see the striking resemblance to father Will Smith in Jaden’s eyes. That same quick-witted since of humor is there and even the mannerisms follow his dad pretty closely. In the film, Smith experiences his first on-screen kiss with a local girl Meiying (Wen Wen Han) from the school he attends.


Han Wen Wen as "Meiying" and Jaden Smith as "Dre Parker" in Columbia Pictures' THE KARATE KID.

The producers, Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith, could have taken this movie in a totally different direction but instead chose to stick with the old story; just revamping it a tad. The 2010 version feels heavier on the dramatic side, unlike the 80’s version, which felt much more upbeat, even playful. Of course, almost every movie from the 80’s was bigger than life. There are several scenes where Dre expresses that he really dislikes his new surroundings. Those moments where a local bully and his crew beat him up are particularly brutal for a family movie, even poignant. Dre tries to avoid them; unfortunately, he just can’t shake them.

Yeah sure, those scenarios are in many American teen films; however, when you add the language barrier with the culture shock, the character’s distress is heightened. Those challenges create authentic vulnerable moments. The filmmakers pay homage to the predecessor by cleverly disguising old fighting moves with updated ones. Gone is the famous “Crane Kick,” it’s transformed into the “Snake Fist” or something of that nature. In the original, Morita nearly patented “the wax on, wax off” mantra that fans chanted for years. Now, instead Chan chants “take off your jacket, now hang it up.” Then “take it down, put it on.” I do miss Morita, who made Mr. Miyagi a much beloved character. His sense of humor was child like, yet cunning. I enjoyed watching him put Macchio through his paces. In the new film, Chan plays Mr. Han with a somber tone.

The ending wraps up the same way with a big fight montage, the only thing lacking is the vengeance in Dre’s eye as he strikes his opponent down, yet it’s no less uplifting in its execution. There really isn’t much else to say about KK 2010, except that it’s just as heartwarming and family oriented as the one before it. Nicely done.


Jackie Chan as "Mr. Han", Jaden Smith "Dre Parker", Taraji P. Henson "Sherry" in Columbia Pictures' THE KARATE KID.

Richard's Take:
Viewing “The Karate Kid” with fellow Sidewalks member, J.P. Langston, I though the film was a worthy endeavor, especially being a remake or a reboot. Jaden Smith, who will one day be bigger than his dad, Will Smith, in films, did a wonderful job as an actor. He is a gifted 12 year-old; Smith played his character Dre with believable emotion.

Setting the film in China was one of the best decisions in helping to create a different environment for the characters. The beautiful views of China, especially scenes with The Great Wall, helped propelled the moments, the culture, the language barrier, and the background for the characters.

It was hard not to compare the 1984 film to the 2010 release. While Jackie Chan was a good choice in the role of shy maintenance man Mr. Han, he didn’t have the shock value as Mr. Miyagi (the late Pat Morita) did in the original film. We all know Chan is an incredible acrobatic martial artist (he could beat up all the bad bullies with one punch), but Morita’s portrayal was mysterious, as we didn’t know if he could lift a leg up to climb into bed.

Reaffirming him as a fine actor, Smith’s role acted as if he was older than he should. Ralph Macchio’s Daniel LaRusso character was like five years older in the first film, so putting the younger Dre in the similar situation wasn’t as believable. I think Dre should have been fighting for something else (like protecting his mom or maybe fighting the bully for stealing his prized Pokemon bubble gum cards) and not defending the pretty school girl, Mei Ying (Wen Wen Han). I also didn’t think it was necessary to give Dre a love interest and their “first kiss” moment. He is too young for that (or am I wrong ~ do 12 year olds like girls then?)

The main objection to the movie (that most people and fellow reviewers are bringing up) was the use of “karate” for the film’s title. I know they needed to give the film brand recognition and it was a story that resembles the original, but young Dre wasn’t doing karate in the film. It was actually kung fu. While it’s called “The Karate Kid” in America, the film is being released with different titles in other parts of the world. For instance, according to the Wikipedia listing, it is called “The Kung Fu Kid” in China and Japan, and “Best Kid” in South Korea

I did like some of the nods that the 2010 did to the original film, such as Han with chopsticks and a fly and the infamous “wax off, wax on” concept (“take jacket off and on” in the new film). Although those were some cute moments, I really wished the powers to be tried to take the latest film into new territory. If you did a side-by-side comparison, almost every element appeared in both films. This includes the main bully, Cheng (Zhenwei Wang), is part of a martial art class/group and the teacher, Master Li (Yu Rongguang), is just as evil as the original Martin Kove’s John Kreese karate teacher. To me, the last 30 minutes or so became a total redo as if I was watching the original film again. Even the ending at the tournament was predicable. I was disappointed at how the writers copied almost every moment and tension.

Even with the carbon copy storylines, the new “Karate Kid” was an enjoyable feature. It turned out to be one of the best remakes around. While I feel it was more violent than the original and with higher dramatic scenes, I say definitely head to the theater and give Smith/Chan your viewership.

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J.P. Langston is a member of "Sidewalks Entertainment" team primarily as a videographer. He loves movies, especially sci-fi horror and action comedies. Some of his favorite films include "Blade Runner" "The Matrix Trilogy," The (original) "Star Wars," "Equilibrium," "Serenity," "Kill Bill Vols 1 and 2," "Appleseed," "Unbreakable" and "Sin City." He has a large DVD collection, which is still growing. Since reviewing films for "Sidewalks," he has been expanding his palette for all types of films.

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Richard R. Lee is the creator, executive producer and occasional on-air personality for the "Sidewalks Entertainment" project. His primary interest is in television programming and TV news. Although he views a variety of programs, he enjoys primarily sci-fi, comedy and adventure series, such as "Star Trek," "Firefly," "Battlestar Galactica," "Jericho," "Alien Nation," "Bosom Buddies," and "MacGyver." Additionally, he samples many of the entertainment talk shows and has seen many of the biggest shows hosted by Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Arsenio Hall, and Jay Leno.

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