MOVIE REVIEW: The Karate Kid (2010)

Mr. Han, the taciturn maintenance man, teaches Dre kung fu. So why is this movie called the Karate Kid?

It’s date night. It’s been a while since we had one of those. I let my date pick the movie; I mean, I suppose I could have vetoed it, but I’m generally disinclined.

First, we go to dinner at a local restaurant/bar named Junior’s. The food’s OK, but it’s one of those places with about a half dozen TVs. The truly weird thing is that three of them were on the same ESPN channel, but that the broadcast at the bar was about seven seconds AHEAD of the the sets in the dining area. It was a College World Series game. Batter swings on the bar TV, batter swings on the restaurant TV. Outfielder catches the ball in the bar, outfielder makes the catch in the restaurant. ESPN logo in the bar…well, you get the idea.

So, what will we see? The choices:
Jonah Hex, the adaptation of the DC comic book; she doesn’t know Jonah Hex
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the adaptation of an apparently popular video game that I never heard of, that’s on its last night, before being replaced by the Cruise/Diaz film, Knight and Day
Shrek Forever After, apparently the last in the franchise. We saw the first two; I would have seen this.
The A-Team, the remake of the 1980s TV show that I seldom watched
Toy Story 3 (“in Disney 3D”), the third in that series; we own the first two on video. DEFINITELY would have seen this.
Killers, that Ashton Kutcher dog, which had the honor of being the only item that wasn’t a sequel or remake.
But she picked The Karate Kid , which was fine by me. I figured she was a big fan of the original. But in fact, she hadn’t seen the original with Ralph Macchio and Noriyuki “Pat” Morita or its two follow-ups, and neither had I.

So, I’m seeing this not in the context of the previous films, but as an entity on its own.

Dre Parker (Jaden Smith from The Pursuit of Happyness) has to leave home in rundown Detroit because his widowed mom Sherry (Taraji P. Henson from Benjamin Button) got a job in Beijing, China. We know Detroit’s run down because we see ALL the boarded-up buildings. They arrive at their dwelling, where at least most of the people speak English, including a cute Chinese girl, Mei Ying (Wen Wen Han) practicing her violin. Unfortunately, this flirtation is not appreciated by the building bully, Cheng (Zhenwei Wang), who enjoys administering a beatdown (or two, or three).

Dre is FINALLY rescued by Mr. Han, the taciturn maintenance man who teaches Dre kung fu, or so Dre can participate in a wushu tournament. (So why is this movie called the Karate Kid? As Sherry says at one point, “Kung fu, karate – what’s the difference?”) Obviously it’s a ploy to extend the brand, and, I’ve read, it’s pretty faithful to the original.

What I liked: the performers; the use of China (Forbidden City, Great Wall and other locations as backdrop). What bothered me: too long (2:20) by about 20 minutes. Surely, we could have gotten the lesson about hanging up your clothes (an homage, I understand, to the original’s “Wax on, wax off”) sooner. One less beatdown of Dre would have been nice too. And it’s a sports movie, so, even if I didn’t see the 1984 film, the ending is not a shock.

Still, it had enough heart to recommend this film, produced by Jaden’s parents, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith.

Rotten Tomatoes score of 69% (as of this writing)
Roger Ebert’s positive review

A bit off the point, but Jaquandor links to a Ralph Macchio makeover (NSFW).