Trust me, I really wanted to hate this movie. As an end result I blame this summers weak entries of summer blockbusters as to why I am finding otherwise mediocre films to be great. The Karate Kid is easily one of the most enjoyable movies I have seen this summer (right behind Get Him to the Greek). That said, I had some reservations about the new film, but from day one, I had every intention of going to see it. The thing that stuck out most for me in this film is the setting of China. The film really benefits from this because there are rarely any Hollywood films that take place in this beautiful country. However, there is just as much good as there is bad.
The setup of The Karate Kid is essentially the same as the original. A mother and son move to a place far away with the promise of a better job and life. Calling it The Karate Kid was in my opinion, is just a very cheap way to cash in on name recognition. Luckily Jackie Chan is good in anything, as he is just a likable dude. Jaden Smith however, is pretty awful. The characters in the original had bigger and more memorable personalities. The original film received an Oscar nomination and spawned two sequels. I don’t see the same fanfare happening for this film.
The real achievement of this film, for me at least, was that this movie is so endearing because it really isn’t about the bullies or the karate. It’s about a boy that finds true friendship, a father figure and strength within himself. Also, it was quite refreshing to see a movie I thought was going to be short turn into well over two hours. However, this results in taking an absurd amount of time to get to that big final match. It’s not an improvement over the equally violent original. Putting the focus back on Jackie Chan, I can safely exclaim that Karate Kid is easily the best work he’s done in years. He actually seems to enjoy being on camera. There is no way Jackie Chan could match Pat Morita’s acting abilities but there is no way Pat Morita matches Jackies’ martial arts skills. Lets be fair here.
The new version does more than simply pay homage to the original. The storyline, and sometimes dialogue, are nearly identical. Yet, somehow, after weeks of living in China, the kid never picks up a word of Chinese. All in all, I am not a fan of Will Smith’s son but I can’t deny the respect I have as I can only imagine the training he had to go through to pull off this role. I do think this version definitely catered to the younger audience. It is a solid re-boot of the franchise and I am as shicked as you are to say it. I gave it the benefit of the doubt by judging it as if there were no predecessor to compare it to, and I suggest you do too as it doesn’t shine a light compared to the classic. However, it is still a great movie that I enjoyed. Color me surprised.