Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Karate Kid [2010]

Director: Harald Zwart
Cast: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson, Wen Wen Han, Zhenwei Wang
Martial Arts/Comedy/Drama
Rating: General
Comment: "About as predictable as any remake, but this is a remake that stands on it's own two feet..."

One look at the cast and it is easy to recognise that this movie was made as a star vehicle for the Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith offspring, Jaden Smith. Frankly FPBM! thinks it is a spectacular idea for he truly deserves a shot, even at his young age. He first came into prominence with the release of the Chris Gardner biopic, The Pursuit of Happyness [2006]. Being a child actor, few would expect him to actually wow the audience with the kind of acting adults are capable of. In The Karate Kid, however, it might render his first performance seem mediocre at best for he seemed to have improved a lot since.

Being a remake, little can be said about the plot. Jaden Smith stars as a twelve-year-old whom with his mother, relocates to China. Cultural differences is not the only trouble he faces, he also has to face becoming a bully victim. He then forge an unlikely alliance with an aging maintenance man, who teaches him kung fu as a mean to protect himself.

Yes, Kung fu. Not Karate, but Kung fu. What prompted this change is nobody's guess, but most probably because of the change in the setting. From an aesthetic point of view, maybe it is because Kung fu has a reputation of being beautiful but deadly art; and they show up better, flashier on camera. In fact, the entire movie is beautiful thanks to it's excellent cinematography.

One can't help but applaud Jaden Smith for his performance. Not only he is a spitting image of his father, it would also seem like he inherited his talents as well. He mixes action with comedy very well and I am glad he refrained from incorporating the archetypal African-American Gangsta-style of acting. More importantly, you will no longer feel like he is a wannabe who cashes in on his father's fame. No doubt, judging from what can be seen here, he will grow up into a credible movie star in his own right.

The inclusion of Jackie Chan in this film might initially appear questionable. Sure, he has a life-long reputation of a legendary action star and watching him portray a kung fu master is not at all surprising. But take notice that ever since he's been pushing fifty, he began venturing more into dramatic roles with his most successful one so far being Shinjuku Incident [2009]. His performance in The Karate Kid may have further strengthened his credibility as a dramatic actor - his character's physical prowess was downplayed and he was shown to have a prominent sensitive side.

My only complaint is the movie could have benefited from shorter running time by including less training montage. But this issue is very benign and it hardly disrupts the viewing experience.

Overall, this is a remake you would not want to miss for it is an absolute pleasure to watch. If you're sentimental enough, you might even shed a tear or two.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Story
- Heart-warming
- Solid performances
- Inspiring

The Bad [-10]
- A tad long

100 - 10 = 90 points

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