Monday, 5 July 2010
FILM REVIEW: THE KARATE KID
Going in, The Karate Kid already had two strikes against it: it’s a remake (or ‘homage’ as the producers would have us believe) and it has a running time of 140 minutes (e-gads!). As I’ve not seen the original Karate Kid (I’ve seen bits and pieces here and there), my dislike for a remake stems from a disapproval of Hollywood’s increasing lack of originality rather than any nostalgic attachment to the 1984 film, which saw Ralph Macchio take on some local bullies with the help of an old Japanese sensei, Mr Miyagi (an Oscar-nominated Pat Morita).
If you didn’t already know, the 2010 ‘homage’ takes place not in the US but China which accounts for the film’s unnecessary length: if the producers had dispensed with the ‘Travel China’ montages (see the Great Wall, see the Bird’s Nest Stadium, see Tiananmen Square; well, maybe not) they could have brought it in under two hours.
Those producers include Will Smith and wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, so it’s no surprise their son, Jaden, plays the titular role. Dre (Smith) arrives in Beijing when his mother (Taraji P. Henson, Benjamin Button’s mum in a previous incarnation) accepts a job in a car manufacturing plant, although what she does exactly we’re never told: is she on the production line? Within hours of his arrival he’s met a whiter than white kid (who then goes AWOL for most of the movie), become smitten with an aspiring musician, and become the focus of the local bullies who are proficient in the art of karate . . . I mean, kung fu. Karate is Japanese, this is China, the film’s not a remake but they borrowed the name however misleading . . .
Anyway, Dre needs help in defending himself and as luck would have it, the handy man in his apartment complex, Mr Han (Jackie Chan), knows a thing or two about kung fu (hey, it’s China, everyone does!). Cue the training montages (and Travel China promos) as Dre and Mr Han prepare themselves for a tournament that will either make or literally break the young Amercian.
Ok, I’ll admit I’m being glib for the fun of it, for much to my surprise The Karate Kid isn’t an entirely bad film, in fact it’s quite serviceable and even enjoyable. Young Smith is likeable enough and Chan gets one of his better English speaking roles; it’s no secret Hollywood has been unkind to the Hong Kong kung fu maestro over the last decade or so.
Fans of the original, however, may not be as pleased with the results. Some local parenting groups certainly aren’t; they’ve got themselves in a flap over the film’s original M rating being downgraded to PG. For them the violence is apparently too much: won’t somebody think of the children! My guess is the only problem your children will have with The Karate Kid is sitting still for 140 minutes. Ritalin, anyone?