Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Karate Kid. B+


I didn't bother to watch the new Karate Kid at the multiplex because at that point I hadn't even seen the original. When I finally did get around to the beloved 1984 flick, I immediately wanted to see if the new version could live up to its excellence. Well, the answer is, for the most part, yes. Marvelous things are done with this version, which manages to feel very different despite telling a story that hardly differentiates from the first one. Jaden Smith is impressive as Dre Parker, and Jackie Chan does a nice job living up to Pat Morita's Oscar nominated performance in the original. The location here is China, and as a result the scenery is much more breathtaking. There's a scene when Smith and Chan are training on the great wall of China. There's no reason for this other than the fact that it looks cool. And that's sort of the approach to the entire movie. To by cool and stylish. Much of this is attributed to Jaden Smith, a natural born actor with so much charisma we wonder why he can't pass some of it along to other, less fortunate child actors. He gets to work with Chan, but he's actually the one who carries the movie. The Karate Kid possesses what makes the original so endearing, and that's that it works emotionally. It goes places family movies don't often go, so I assume all the youngsters that were brought along by their parents (who probably wanted to see it for their own sake as much as their kids') were surprised by the movie's attention to feelings. For much of the movie I was liking this more than the original, but unfortunately it lost all of its energy by dragging out the end even though the conclusion is completely obvious. I generally don't mind the "end fight" in the sports movies, but this time I was completely bored. Maybe it's because the movie tells us that it's not about that final competition at all. As a result, we aren't caring too much. One other problem is that the relationship between Chan and Smith isn't quite as convincing as the one between Morita and Ralph Macchio in the original. I think it might have to do with the mere fact that Macchio was in his twenties and playing a teen, while Smith wasn't even thirteen when the film was made. It does make a difference. Still, one can't do much but admire this updated version.

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