Reviewed by Alicia Glass
After his mother’s career lands both of them in China, Dre Parker takes up learning Kung Fu from the maintenance man to fight a bully, and finds budding romance.
Right. I find myself asking this question of a lot of 2010 movies, it’s a small simple one: why? I utterly fail to see the point in making this movie. There’s a rule these film folks need to learn ASAP: re-imagining, re-making, re-booting, whatever you want to call it, a movie that had huge popularity in the 1980’s, here in 2010, is doomed to failure. Styles change, fads change, times change. The movie’s main supposed selling point, Kung Fu, is a lot more popular now than it was then.
Jaden Smith got a lot of flack for being the star of this movie, despite or maybe because of his father being Will Smith, megastar. I thought he did a perfectly serviceable job for the role they gave him, and if any arrogance shone through, well, attribute it to American ways coming across misunderstood in a foreign country. If any of you out there were a military brat like me, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
At any rate, everything is backwards or sideways in this movie, and it troubles me. First off, we have the American kid going to China, that’s a flip flop. They never did say what kind of job makes his mother move to China, but allows her to afford hospital bills when Dre gets hurt, and take time off to attend his Kung Fu tournament at the end, but whatever. We have Jackie Chan as the iconic maintenance man of the apartments where Dre and his mother live, troubled by his past and determined at first to get Dre to leave him alone, and then after to get the boy to learn some respect. I’m terribly sorry, I do adore Jackie Chan, but the man does so much better at comedy. Seeing him all serious, in drunken tears even, it’s just disturbing. We have the neighborhood bully, who of course takes a disliking to Dre and is already training at a Kung Fu studio where the instructor is the kind of man you fully expect to say, in subtitles, “Sweep the leg.” I kept waiting for all the kids in the enemy studio to start yelling, “Cobra kai!” Wait, we’re in China right? You get the idea. There’s even a little love interest for Dre, and of course bully Chen doesn’t approve. Not that he wants the girl, it’s a racial thing, ooh, something actually modern and different. *sigh* Even the name of the movie, The Karate Kid, gets annoying when you realize one simple mistake: Kung Fu is definitely not Karate. The training montage is fine, and one of the better scenes of the whole movie; as I understood it Jaden Smith did most if not all of his own action and training shots. But that’s sadly mostly it. Even the tournament at the end, I was almost fearfully waiting for Jaden Smith to haul his leg back at the key moment for the Crane kick, and that would’ve just been terrible. Thankfully he didn’t, but still.
So, the newest Karate Kid gets six knockout stars. Jaden Smith tried real hard, and even I have to admire that kind of dedication in a kid his age. The movie gods were just conspiring against him.