Let’s just get this out of the way right now.  The movie is called The Karate Kid.  In the movie, they are practicing kung fu, not karate.  I don’t know why this is the case, but that’s the way it is.

But anyway...

I know as a white person, most of us were probably afraid when we saw the ad for the film: Jaden Smith? China? Where will the white people be?  How can a film exist without the creaminess of our complexions?  Well fear not, whities. Not shockingly, the very first kid  Dre (Jaden Smith) meets in China is an extremely blonde white kid.  That’s not really a spoiler considering he has no value to the story and we never see him again after first, say, twenty minutes.  I just wanted you to know: white people made it in there somewhere.

The action and fight choreography are updated, which is nice for those of us hoping that they wouldn’t mess up everything that was good about the original.  The remake of the scene in which Mr. Miyagi saves Daniel from the Cobra Kai kids is a fun improvement over the original, and they found a way to make it look like Jackie Chan wasn’t just beating up a bunch of little kids.  

And as if we need another excuse to be afraid of China...

From what I gathered from the movie, China trains all of their male children to be acrobatic face kicking machines. In the original film, it was obvious that most of the actors didn’t know karate in reality, possibly least of all Ralph Macchio. But, these kids are all clearly proficient in kung fu.

When I first heard that they were going to remake The Karate Kid, I was immediately not in favor.  My first thought was, “there are so many shitty movies out there that could benefit from a remake.  Why mess with a beloved classic?”  Then I got to the movie theater.  Among my fellow Saturday matinee attendees was an entire dojo of little karate practitioners, all wearing karate outfits--it was awesome.  Little kids were all over the place, so much so that it necessitated a station that would paint Chinese characters all over your face (mine say “waterfall face punch”).

It all became clear to me:  It’s a remake for little kids who love kicking and punching so much that they can barely contain themselves.  During every fight or training scene I could see kids mimicking the moves out of the corners of my eyes.  The nine year old next to me even started applauding in the middle of a scene. Surprisingly enough, the spastic behavior of the little kids actually made the movie more fun to watch.

But this is a remake. Don’t expect any surprises in terms of plot points.  Some scenes are almost exactly the same as they are in the original film.  This fact alone is evidence of the movie’s target audience.  Conceptually, when you consider the time period, it makes more sense to target children.  When I re-watched the the original, I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that karate was definitely not cool in high school.  In movies it was cool, but if you were taking classes yourself, you may have well sewn a pocket protector on to your gi.

The biggest complaint I have is that, for a while, I forgot what the stakes were.  For a considerably large chunk of time, we go without seeing the dicks who are beating up Dre.  He gets his initial beat downs, then we don’t see any significant interaction with the antagonists again until the tournament.  We forget why the original conflict mattered.

The fact is that the movie is carried by the setting. The country looks amazing, but without the “oh, so that’s how it is in China” moments, the movie is just average.   For adults, you’ll probably feel that something is missing from what made the original a classic.  Maybe it’s a main character that’s reached puberty, or maybe it’s Pat Morita’s stoic demeanor; it’s difficult to put a finger on.

To summarize: Plot Same/Action Better/Little Kids will love it.

Anyone seen it? What did you think?


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