The Karate Kid (2010)

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IMDb Rating
6.2 out of 10 (view IMDb page)

  • Not Rated Yet
(Based on 0 Ratings)
MPAA Rating:
PG for bullying, martial arts action violence and some mild language.
Action, Drama, Family, Sport
Harald Zwart
Christopher Murphey (screenplay)
Robert Mark Kamen (story)

Weekly Volcano's Review

Rev. Adam McKinney on June 10th, 2010

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Here's what kind of a movie The Karate Kid is: During the last five minutes, the audience at my screening was compelled to applaud three times. And you know what? Before I could stop myself, I did a little clapping, too.

That's sort of all you need to know, really. The Karate Kid is rousing, smart, sometimes silly, surprisingly affecting entertainment. It's a well-considered remake of a pretty beloved film-of a movie that has burrowed its way so far into the zeitgeist that the mere utterance of the words "wax on" or "wax off" is impossible without conjuring images of Daniel Larusso and Mr. Miyagi.

The first smart thing that this reboot does is to not try and recreate Daniel and Miyagi. We start fresh with Dre Parker (Jaden Smith), a smart-alecky 12-year-old who moves with his mother from Detroit to China. Dre, understandably, isn't thrilled to make the move, but things begin to look up when he meets the adorable Meiying (Han Wenwen). This time, instead of bonding over soccer-as in the first film-they bond over break dancing. A sign of the times!

Ah, but things quickly look down for Dre when he is promptly pummeled by Cheng, a supposed friend of Meiying's family. Here, the passing of time between the first film and this new one starts to make itself apparent. When people fight in this movie, they really fight. For everything the original had going for it, the fight scenes were always pretty modest. As Dre is tormented by Cheng and his group of thugs, we begin to share Dre's fear because, well, it looks like it hurts.

Eventually, Dre is cornered by the bullies, and as he is very nearly finished off by Cheng, the quiet handy man from Dre's apartments swoops in to his rescue. This is Mr. Han, as beautifully played by Jackie Chan in what has to be his best performance. The confrontation between the bullies and Mr. Han unfolds in a typically gorgeous set piece from Chan, centering around Mr. Han's determination to never throw a punch.

Through various complications, Dre is left alone by the bullies with the caveat that he will meet them in the ring - come the fast-approaching Kung Fu Tournament. Now, before you get offended by the notion that there is no actual karate in The Karate Kid, please stop and consider just how much it really matters.

Mr. Han agrees to train Dre, and so begins the real heart of the movie. In another wise decision, the scenes of waxing on and waxing off - and painting fences - have been replaced with a rather ingenious sequence involving Dre hanging up his coat.

In due time, we reach the scene I was most worried would be ruined. Dre comes by one day, uninvited, to find Mr. Han has been drinking. Those who have seen the original know what I'm talking about, though this film changes it up a little bit. It's a tricky scene for Smith and Chan to navigate, but they burst through the other side with a conclusion so full of down-in-the-gut emotion that it may even trump the original.

There were many times during the film where I considered the audience, which was mostly full of children. I've never thought of The Karate Kid-the original, or the new-as a children's film. The violence gets pretty hairy, at times. These kids aren't action stars, and they never pretend like they can't get hurt. And, in the end, though the movie may promote standing up to your fears, the real message seems to be that to really solve your problems, violence is sometimes the only answer.

But that's a conversation for another time. It sure is fun to watch Dre kick some ass, which he is able to do thanks to a training montage that shows him making astonishing leaps and strides in the Kung Fu department.

When he reaches the tournament, it is a testament to the quality of the film that it still seems fairly plausible that Dre might not make it out the victor. Mr. Han advises him it doesn't really matter whether he wins or loses, because either way he will have stood up for himself.

Yeah, right.

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