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Christy Catherine Marshall

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July 2, 2010

On a hot summer day, there are few things more relaxing than sitting in a cool, air-conditioned theater. So, after reading Thomas McKenzie’s One Minute Review of The Karate Kid over at the Rabbit Room, we decided to go check it out.

We loved it!

It was filmed in Beijing, and the photography was beautiful. At several points, the scenery took my breath away, especially seeing it on a big screen. The Karate Kid stars Jaden Smith, son of actor Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith, who also produced the movie. His teacher is played by Jackie Chan. I’m not usually a fan of action films, especially violent ones, and while this did have some tough fight scenes, overall there was enough comic relief to carry me through.

Here’s the basic plot: 12-year-old Dre Parker moves with his mom from Detroit to Beijing when she gets a job transfer to China. His mom is busy at work, so he must find his own way in a new culture, and it doesn’t take long before he discovers bullies who pick on him. These are not your average bullies — they’re violent students of a bad kung fu teacher. The plot thickens when Dre is rescued by Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), his apartment’s maintenance man, who happens to be a kung fu master. Dre asks Mr. Han to teach him how to defend himself, and he’ll ultimately have to fight his arch enemy in a kung fu tournament.

If you’ve seen the original 1984 Karate Kid movie starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita, the plot is eerily similar. I’m wondering how the screenwriters got away with this — they must have gotten permission to copy the plot somehow. We watched the original version later, and I’d forgotten how great it was, especially since Pat Morita played Mr. Miyagi, a Japanese karate sensei.

Yet I liked the new version better, mainly because it was funnier, and the actors were kids. In real life, Jaden was only 11 when the movie was filmed last summer in China, so it’s more appropriate for younger audiences. In the old 1984 version, there’s more emphasis on dating, since the characters are in high school. The original version was scarier to me, since the bullies looked like they were really out to kill Ralph Macchio. Also, the last scene of the original is over IN ONE SECOND. We build and build to this last scene, and BAM! It ends with a quick crane kick — which was awesome, but thank goodness we could rewind on our VCR (yes, we checked out the video from our library) and watch it again.

The newer version is more sophisticated. I did have a hard time watching the kung fu tournament — is this how kung fu really works in China? This is an extremely violent sport! No way would I let my kids participate in something like this — so I was a little surprised the woman who played Dre Parker’s mom looks so happy and cheerful at the tournament. He’s such a little kid — and ouch, the knee punching scene looked horrendous, since I’ve suffered knee injuries.

But the ending is great — I won’t spoil it for you. You’ll leave the theater feeling like you’ve traveled to China and back and like you’ve learned to defeat and gain the respect of your enemies.

Most importantly, it was FUNNY. I like to laugh when I go see a movie. I did get tears a few times mostly because of the grand scenery. I would LOVE to go walk the Great Wall of China someday, but plane tickets to Beijing for a family of seven cost a bit more than the movie version.

The music is also really good in the new version as well. I’ve at last been initiated into the sounds of teeny bopper Justin Bieber, whose picture I see all over the tabloids. He sings “Never Say Never” with Jaden. But for me, the violin music played by Dre/Jaden’s Chinese friend, was stunning. When she auditions for the Berlin Academy of Music, she plays so beautifully. THAT’S my kind of music.

I also found it interesting that the movie is called “Best Kid” in Japan and “Kung Fu Kid” in China. The film isn’t really about karate, but since it’s a remake of the original 1984 version, they used the same title — yes, marketing kaching!

Still, for those of us who must do our world traveling by armchair, it was a nice way to spend a summer afternoon.

By: Heather Ivester in: Movies | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)