Movie Review: The Karate Kid

Good lord, just stick with the original.

The Karate Kid is about a 12-year-old from Detroit who moves to Beijing with his mom, he does his best to blend in without knowing a single word of Chinese, he develops a crush on a girl in his class, he winds up getting his ass kicked a lot by a group of kids who all take karate lessons from a sadistic maniac, and then he starts learning kung-fu from his building’s super so that he can kick their asses double time in a big ol’ martial arts tournament.

Now, it’s been a long time since I’ve watched the ’84 version that inspired this thing, but from what I remember in my youth, the story here isn’t all that different. Replace Cali with China, switch out Danny Larusso for a kid who’s just barely old enough to have gotten the “birds and the bees” talk, make Mr. Miyagi younger and give him a shady past, turn “wax on” to “jacket on”, and that should about do it. Whatever, it’s expected and the similarities aren’t exactly a drawback, but the big problem goes back to the guy who thought this thing needed to clock in at 132 minutes.

Really? What could writer Robert Mark Kamen possibly have to add to the subjects of karate and kids that would warrant such a lengthy experience and wasn’t already covered over the course of four movies? In a nutshell, nothing, and while it’s not quite on the same level as having to wade through all eight hours of Sex and the City 2, trust me, it’s noticeable.

So the plot is formulaic, some of the dialogue gets eye-rollingly corny towards the end and it takes a good hour or so before the actual training begins, but then again, the script isn’t the only thing to blame.

From the moment I saw the first trailer where Jaden Smith was throwing punches in a wife beater with his noodle arms, I wasn’t exactly won over by the sight. It’s just weird to watch a sweaty sixth-grader doing shirtless high kicks while showing off his semi-six pack in any setting and the kid doesn’t do much to convince me that I should find it cool either. I can see how folks might find him “cute”, but the kid just comes off as smug, like he’s hot shit and he knows it, and that’s not a good quality to have when you’re twelve, or ever. Seriously, enough with the popping and locking, drop the “too cool for school” shtick and forget that you’re The Fresh Prince’s son for a second. Jaden’s probably got some potential in there, but I couldn’t handle him as Dre Parker.

Taraji P. Henson is also pretty irritating as his overprotective and uber-smothering mom, but that’s more the script’s fault than hers.

Then again, the fight scenes are pretty good for the most part, mainly because Jackie Chan knows a thing or two about choreographing an unfair fight. The weird thing about it is the insanely rapid pace at which Dre goes from novice to perfect weapon without even really trying, and then there’s the whole final karate tournament where we find out that all the kids have been learning their techniques from the Tekken dojo.

Honestly, Bruce Lee couldn’t pull off the wacko moves these kids unleash on each other like it’s no big thing and as much as I want to say that it’s mostly entertaining, I couldn’t stop laughing to myself at how bonkers it got, the words “FINISH HIM!” even show up on-screen like it’s Mortal Kombat, Jr. Man, I’m still shaking my head thinking about Jaden’s update on the crane kick. Wait ’til you see it, beyond ridiculous.

But there are some saving graces, the first of which is the setting.

I’ve never been to China, and up until now that was fine by me, but this thing sure isn’t hurting their tourism industry any. Absolutely beautiful country all around, I’m shocked that this fact has eluded me all these years, and thanks to this, it’s been bumped up on the bucket list of places I need to go. 

And Jackie Chan’s actually pretty solid as the 21st Century Mr. Miyagi, Mr. Han. Easily the most interesting character of the bunch, the dude actually can kick some ass and watching him trounce a pack of teenage thugs without even throwing a punch just makes me feel like an idiot for ignoring Rumble in the Bronx all these years. He’s no Pat Morita, but he’s the best thing this movie’s got going for it.

I don’t know, the thing I keep wondering is why this movie was even made. Was there really a movement or a general desire amongst anyone out there who thought that it was high time someone remade The Karate Kid of all things? It’s not like the original feels dated or anything, so it just ends up feeling like what it is – another cash cow Hollywood remake. The Karate Kid isn’t terrible and I suppose it does have its moments, it just feels unnecessary is all. But there was a guy in the theater who literally clapped right through the entire last half hour, so who knows, this might just be the remake you’ve been waiting your whole damn life for.

4/10 Leg Sweeps

 To read more reviews from Aiden Redmond, also be sure to check out Cut The Crap Movie Reviews