12-year-old Dre Parker could’ve been the most popular kid in Detroit, but his mother’s 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, 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.
A remake of Karate Kid was inevitable but was it necessary? After all, the original featuring the gawky, stumbling Ralph Machio had a certain cult aura to it. Perhaps a movie that everyone I know has seen, is also a part of our early culture. That is….. when former Happy days celebrities took towards film and started a franchise. Now maybe years later we are joined with mentor Jackie Chan as Mr. Han and newcomer Jaden Smith. Jackie is the perfect teacher in a role that makes alot of sense bringing his talent with him. In fact, probably more appropriate than the original actor Pat Morita who played Mr. Miyagi.
In any case, Karate Kid 2010 is a different journey that repeats the original story with a new line of characters and a new location. Namely China. Dre and his mother relocate to China so she can take on a new job. Dre Parker finds changing schools and cultures a wake up call when he takes to a Chinese girl and also engages into a fight with the local bully. We know how the story goes, the bully is trained and able to take Dre down without a fight. Though this complicates things when Dre learns that he is going to the same school as him. Further more, it’s apparent that Dre will have to endure a constant confrontation with the locals if something doesn’t change.
As a stand alone, the film is a great movie. The issue lies in that it’s a remake of an already great movie. With the original comes trademark moves, trademark lines and a certain rhythm that is still a one of kind film.
Karate Kid explores the deeper meaning of the culture with explorations in true kung-fu and the importance of simple ideas. Stillness, respect and even the routine of taking off one’s coat are all lessons provided in Dre’s journey of learning. These were elements in the original but simplified and in some ways more campy. No longer wash on , wash off….Jackie Chan takes the idea of teaching and implements it into a series of lessons that seem to add to the central learning of the character and his overall growth. A few new ideas are brought to the table almost more in line with some of Jean Claude’s earlier works.
Another aspect that is introduced is the pressure e of the Chinese culture and the demands they place upon their children. As Dre’s best friend plays a beautiful violin performance, the teachers react with luke warm expression as if perfection is something that is unreachable. We get a deeper sense of upbringing that takes a more serous attitude than what we perceive in our culture. With that we also learn that respect is far greater than the challenges.
Karate kid has heart and warmth that maybe lacked in the original but in its place it loses a bit of its retro charm that many have grown up on. It’s apparent that the film will relate better to the newer generations with its use of cell phones and Lady GaGa songs than the older crowd who were wooed with simple lines like “sweep the foot” and a crane stance that is able to win a tournament. In closing it’s still a good film with good lessons within. It’s appropriate for family viewing and will make a great choice in that respect.