The Karate Kid opens June 11

The Karate Kid strikes like a cobra.

I was hesitant when I saw the trailer for “The Karate Kid” a month ago.  I thought, “Here we go again.”  When I see a potential rehash or remake or a reboot of something from my childhood I can usually hear cash registers cha-chinging in the background.  That sound typically means that somewhere Hollywood executives are getting their wings and are about to make a down payment on a house in the hills or buy yet another Rolex to add to their collection.  Like most Gen-Xers I am apprehensive and cynical when it comes to these matters.

I also know that I can be wrong from time to time.  And, on the rare occasion that I am wrong I will admit it. I first had a feeling that I was wrong once the opening credits of “The Karate Kid” were rolling and I saw that two of the producers were Will and Jada Pinkett Smith.  These are two people in Hollywood that probably aren’t out to make a quick buck.  Considering their kid is in the lead role, they probably are going to treat the film with a little more care.

The story begins with the main character, Dre Parker (Jaden Smith, son of the aforementioned producers) leaving Detroit with his mom to relocate to China.  It is immediately established that there is no dad and that he is an only child.  Once in China Dre has trouble adapting to the culture and the language (however, every person in China seems to be able to speak English).  He makes a few friends and quickly finds a love interest all within an hour or two of landing.  Much of this story is going to sound familiar because the writers didn’t deviate from the original “Karate Kid” too much.

As soon as Dre finds love he finds bitter enemies.  He is involved in his first fight where he tries out his amateur fighting skills resulting in a black eye.  It only gets worse for him at his new school.  He tries to find a way to defend himself but discovers that the only kung fu class in town also teaches his enemies.  Dre eventually retaliates and is once again finding himself outnumbered and on the losing end of a brawl.  Enter the maintenance man, Mr. Han (played by Jackie Chan), who comes to save the day in a humorous fight scene.  If you have seen previous Chan movies you will most likely appreciate the fight sequence here.  I didn’t think it would be too funny to see an older man beat up on a bunch of young punks, but again I was wrong.  I enjoyed watching Chan deviate from playing the fighting comic; his role here is much more somber than what he has previously done.

Mr. Han tries to reason with the instructor at the kung fu school about the behaviors of his students and enrolls Dre in to a kung fu tournament.  Mr. Han takes Dre in and teaches him the ancient art of how to pick up his jacket (think wax on, wax off and you will get the idea).  Through the course of the rest of the movie the audience is given some breathtaking views of China while also following Dre’s kung fu training.  It is never really explained why Mr. Han has to teach Dre kung fu on top of the Great Wall of China other than the fact that it is really cool to see in a movie.

As in the original movie the story climaxes at a championship tournament, where as in the original, the protagonist defeats everyone in the tournament to make it to the final round therefore facing his bitter enemy.  The movie is over two hours long but that final scene at the tournament made it seem well worth it.  I can’t remember the last time I was in a theater where the audience was cheering and clapping.

Should you see this movie?  Quite simply, yes.  It gives you a solid story line that has been holding up for the last 25 years along with a mix of age appropriate humor and some action.  The real difference between the original and this movie is the improved fight sequences.  If you are a Gen-Xer, leave your cynicisms at the door, take your kids and enjoy a good family movie.

Leave a Reply