The following review’s edited version appeared on the 4th of July 2010, in iMAGES.
Kung-Fu Bullies Reboot in China
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
If I were a studio executive, rebooting The Karate Kid would have been the last thing on my mind. I still remember the sequels *shudder*.
Tackling this new version is Harald Swart (Pink Panther 2) and he is as calm as the rebooted, yet fresher a point-to-point adaptation by Christopher Murphey. The original story by Robert Mark Kamen remains the same with four minor, yet influencing updates: 1 – The setting is changed to Beijing. 2 – Karate is updated to Kung-Fu (the title remains the same, because the Kung-Fu Kid sounds like a defunct cartoon from my early PTV-watching days). 3 – Mr. Han, Jackie Chan, is more reserved than Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi (their names are different too). 4 – Jaden Smith, as Dre Parker, looks too young for this adaptation. A year or two later and maybe he would have a better handle on the teen-anguish angle.
The last point is a personal opinion. But it wouldn’t make a very good case because the movie is produced by Will Smith, Jaden Smith’s father. The screenplay shows Mr. Smith’s influence. The pacing is delicately spread between Dre’s character development (there is very little) and the one-arc story about being bullied and learning karate to take the bully down in the annual tournament. Rather than rushing through events, the scenes are written in a very real world scenario. The alienation of language, the congested locations, the bullying, all develop in their own time. One actually feels bad for Dre when he runs away, hiding behind nooks and cars to avoid getting beat up.
As the story evolves Jaden’s spoiled brat learns about discipline (he has a nasty habit about leaving his jacket on the floor), makes a girl-friend (I disapprove 12 year olds and their romantic engagements) who plays the Bach and on their one-and-only date, dances like a slutty 18-year old college grad. She’s also one of the few required to speak English in the screenplay. The others being Mr. Chan, the villain bully Chang (Zhenwei Wang) and the school principal Mrs. Po (Ji Wang).
The only biff I have with this update is Jackie Chan’s Mr. Han, plays second fiddle to Dre. There is too little of Mr. Chan. Even when he’s in front of the camera. Ok, so he’s haunted by a demon from the past. And he has to self-reproach. But keeping him flat is plain insulting. Mr. Chan is a wonderful actor with great chops. It’s about time he’s given something bigger and better in Hollywood. Not that it would happen.
The Karate Kid is rated PG-13. The choreography is slick and its content is calm.
The published version can be found at: