Monday, June 28, 2010
Movie Review: The Karate Kid
Director Harald Zwart's 2010 remake of the 1984 coming-of-age classic, The Karate Kid, may be short on originality of plot (in fact, apart from the setting, the story is identical), but don't let that stop you from going to see it.
Twelve-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) must leave his home in Detroit for Beijing, where his mother, Sherry (Taraji P. Henson) has work with an automobile manufacturer. As Dre attempts to integrate himself into an alien culture, he runs afoul of a gang of bullies trained in kung fu. Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), the maintenance man at the apartment building where Dre and his mom reside, reluctantly agrees to help the boy in his quest to earn respect. The story unfolds more or less predictably from there.
But Zwart's creation is poignant. Jaden Smith's performance is moving. With Zwart's direction, Smith achieves just the right combination of vulnerability and cocksure youthfulness. The interaction between young Dre and his Chinese crush, Mei Ying (Wen Wen Han) is awkward and (dare I say it?) cute. Jackie Chan's performance is vintage Chan: funny, charming, charismatic.
The fight scenes are well-choreographed and entertaining, although parents of young children (younger than 10, perhaps) should consider carefully. There is plenty of (non-lethal) violence.
The movie also endows viewers with a glimpse of modern day Beijing which I, at least, found surprising. Far from a colorless Communist monolith, the Beijing presented by Zwart is bustling, alive, and full of surprises.
The biggest surprise of all, for me, was how much I enjoyed this movie. I had gone in expecting a trite, shallow adaptation of a moderately good flick from my youth. Instead, I got a beautifully rendered, well-acted, touching portrayal of the timeless trials of a boy emerging into manhood.
Good flick. I recommend it.