Movie #146 The Karate Kid
(2010, US/China, d. Harald Zwart)
I don’t know if it’s me going in with low expectations or the fact that I watched this at the perfect time, but this movie is really good. And I’m not just talking about in the crowd-pleasing sense, because most sports movies leave you with some sort of positive feeling. But the chemistry of all the elements in the film work so well that this film stands not in the shadow of its iconic predecessor, but completely on its own. Unlike most remakes, which almost rely on the originals for jokes or even support, this film might as well been called The Kung Fu Kid (which it was in China – those picky bastards) and started its own franchise. For example, most people know what I’m talking about when I say “Wax on, wax off”. However, instead of including that legendary sequence, the writers instead create their own similar experience, and that without giving too much away, involves a great payoff and a black jacket. Sold more as a vehicle for its up and coming young star Jaden Smith (son of Will Smith – you’ve probably heard of him), it’s very pleasantly surprising to see that the kid’s got talent. Not only that, he actually possesses something only a few major Hollywood performers possess today: presence. Though at the end of the film, while it’s still a kid trying to evoke emotion and fall in love on cue (the only downside to the movie), no one should deny Smith has a presence that even overshadows his wonderful veteran screen parter, Jackie Chan. The two have such on-screen chemistry, it really grounds the movie in its believable characters and makes it fun and enjoyable to watch. And it’s nice to see Mr. Chan pull out his acting chops. I know for awhile, especially on press junkets, he’s been saying he wants to cry and do a drama, so I think this was a great compromise. Boosted by an energetic soundtrack, the biggest praise I can say for this film is that it deserves every scene. Though nearly 2 and 1/2 hours in its running time, no montage, no dramatic encounter, and no fight scene felt artificially placed in. Sequels are never good. I don’t expect this one’s to be. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited.