Rated PG for bullying, martial arts action violence and some mild language.
The Karate Kid wasn't as bad as I expected it to be, but it ran way too long to hold my interest the entire time.
Dre Parker is 12 years old and being forced to move to China from Detroit because his single mom got a job transfer. Almost immediately he falls for a girl who has another suitor named Chang. And that other suitor beats the living crap out of Dre. Scared that he's going to spend the rest of his years hating China, Dre finds solace in the building maintenance man, Mr. Han. Mr. Han takes Dre under his wing and protects him from Chang and his cohorts. But when he confronts the leader of Chang's kung fu dojo, Han has to enter Dre into a kung fu tournament. If he wins, Dre will be left alone. If he loses, all hell breaks loose.
The original Karate Kid is one of those all-time 80s favorites that I can't help but watch any time it's on. It's such a simple, yet wholly engaging film, mainly because of the two leads - Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio. The remake has a very similar storyline, but the two leads aren't as fun for me. The remake takes place in a different part of the world. I kind of preferred going from New Jersey to Reseda, but I can understand why they changed locations. Dre is confronted by a gang of kids and in order to regain his honor, he has to learn kung fu and enter a tournament. In the original, Daniel LaRusso feel for a girl and had to fight a bunch of bullies in a tournament to regain his honor. Fair enough. Things do differ though - some ways are good, some ways are bad.
The training Dre goes through wasn't nearly as fun as what Daniel went through. The original left you with the classic 'Wax on, Wax off' and 'Paint the fence'. The remake? 'Put your jacket on, take it off, drop it on the floor, put it on the hook.' Really? That was the best they could come up with? I'm not saying what Dre learned from doing all that was bad, but the terminology was weak. Also, Dre and Mr. Han go on this annoyingly long spiritual retreat that took up way too much time and killed the momentum of the film. And the lesson he learned could have been taught elsewhere in a shorter amount of time. And that's really where the films separated.
In the original, the film was almost singly about Daniel learning karate so he could stop being afraid of the bullies. Nothing else mattered. In the remake, there's a love story (between 12 year olds??), a hovering mother and a lot more. The bullies faded into the background for the large majority of the film. After a while, you lost track of what he was training for. And let's face it, those bullies were pretty damn tough. That Chang character would give Billy Zabka a beating if they ever met.
And the fight scenes were where the remake overtook the original. The fights between Dre and Chang were fierce and brutal. The karate was fast and furious and it actually made me cringe once in a while, watching Dre get the tar kicked out of him. The tournament at the end had a lot of good fights as well. But as I said earlier, they lost that storyline at some point so actually being at the tournament wasn't as big a deal as it was in the original.
The biggest problem I had with the film was simply this - Jaden Smith isn't ready to headline his own movie. In the athletic scenes, he was tremendous. I give him huge props for all he went through because it was impressive. But everything else was kind of weak. Once in a while he'd say a line in a funny way, but otherwise I found him too taught. Like someone had to tell him, OK, here you need to start to cry and here you need to be really angry. It didn't feel natural at all. And Jackie Chan, while a fine martial artist, is hard to understand as it is, so being in a role that involves him teaching someone and being more dramatic than normal... well, it didn't work that well.
Putting the movie in China did open up a lot of nice scenery, so the movie definitely looked good. The soundtrack was pretty good. I just wish they had cut down on a lot of the scenes and focused more on the story. There were plenty of places where they could have cut a minute here, a few minutes there and it would have sped the film up. There is absolutely no reason this movie needs to be over 2 hours. Oh, and they make a big point of this not being 'karate' but 'kung fu' so why is this called The Karate Kid?
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I thought The Karate Kid was just OK. It definitely wasn't as good as the original, but it does manage, barely, to stand on its own. Go for the fight scenes, but be prepared for a lot of filler.