Karate Kid, The (2010)

MPAA Rating: PG

Entertainment: +3

Content: +2 1/2

Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith, Tarji P. Henson. Action/adventure/remake.  Written by Chris Murphey, Steve Conrad, Michael Soccio.  Directed by Harald Zwart.

PRESS SYNOPSIS:  12-year-old Dre Parker could've been the most popular kid in Detroit, but his mother's latest career move has landed him in China . Dre immediately falls for his classmate Mei Ying - and the feeling is mutual - but cultural differences make such a friendship impossible. Even worse, Dre's feelings make an enemy of the class bully, Cheng. In the land of kung fu, Dre knows only a little karate, and Cheng puts "the karate kid" on the floor with ease. With no friends in a strange land, Dre has nowhere to turn but maintenance man Mr. Han, who is secretly a master of kung fu. As Han teaches Dre that kung fu is not about punches and parries, but maturity and calm, Dre realizes that facing down the bullies will be the fight of his life.

PREVIEW REVIEW:  The few problems I have with this film are slight and overshadowed by its strengths. So, let’s get them out of the way.  First, the regard for China is good, but the film does its best to ignore the government’s abuse of human rights.  Since this film is a small story about a young boy finding his way, I suppose the political drive of China can be excused.

My second problem; the omnipresent hand-hand “shaky” cam. It was actually referred to as the “steady cam” when first conceived.  Now its use has morphed into a gimmicky trick to simulate busy activity or tension.  It’s used incessantly here, and is not just distracting, but in my case, headache inducing.  I found myself closing my eyes at certain points in order to ease the discomfort.  (Does a filmmaker really want to hear that his movie gives people headaches?)  That said, most of today’s moviegoers are accustomed to this trend, and may not have even noticed the shaky camera if I hadn’t brought it up.  Sorry about that.

Third insignificant complaint – I don’t get the need for this film.  It was done well back in 1984 and followed up by an endless batch of sequels and even an animated TV series.  But again, that’s of little import because we don’t watch older films, even if they are better made than today’s releases, right?  So, let’s get to the positives.

As I left the theater, I overheard a little girl say to her dad, “That’s the best movie I’ve ever seen.”  I won’t go quite that far, but I was impressed.  The pacing is good, as is the story and the performances.  It’s the most grounded characterization I’ve seen from Mr. Chan and young Jaden Smith (son of you-know-who) will be a star.  I amend that statement. He is a star.  He’s also a very good actor.  At first I would have thought that Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith should have been reluctant to allow their son to enter showbiz at such an early age (he was also magnetic in Pursuit of Happyness, and The Day the Earth Stood Still), but the kid has the chops, as they say.  He’s a solid performer and has been gifted with all the rest of the makeup necessary to become and stay a movie star.  He’ll be around for a long time and I predict we moviegoers will be the better for it.  But, oh man, he’s going to be a handful once he enters the teen years.  Good luck with that, Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Director Harald Zwart (yes, that’s the correct spelling) has a good feel for the material.  Responsible for Pink Panther 2 and Agent Cody Banks, Mr. Zwart successfully blends humor and pathos here.  There are some tender moments and both leads can generate a smile from us with just a lift of an eyebrow.  Note to parents:  Jackie Chan’s character has a tragic past, the loss of his family.  This brought outbursts of emotional displeasure (loud crying) from the youngest members of the screening audience.  Seeing a grown man cry over the loss of wife and child might not be suitable for very young children.  For older ones and us adults, the dramatic moments seem to give the story depth and sincerity.

The locales, including a shot of the inside of the “Forbidden City,” are interesting, the humor is witty, and the jujitsu battles exciting.  It’s a clean film, never resorting to crudity, a film that sends a positive message to youngsters about respecting others.  Is it any better than the one with Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) and then teen heartthrob Ralph Macchio?  No.  But unlike so many remakes, it’s just as good as the original.

DVD Companion: Together. (2002) This Chinese film concerns a widowed father who sacrifices everything in order to support his teenage son’s gifted musical abilities. The son can’t see the sacrifices made on his behalf until the end. Beautifully filmed in the “Forbidden City” of China, full of humor, drama and insight, Together is a powerful morality tale with an ending that moved me to tears. This film reminded me of 1 Timothy 5:8, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, he has denied the faith.” It has subtitles, but it’s so involving that you soon forget that distraction.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Sony Pictures

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: I caught none.

Obscene Language: There are a couple of minor expletives (young Jaden says damn once), but I caught no obscene language; Jaden uses the statement, “I’m going to get my ass kicked” a couple of times, but stops once he is corrected by his Karate tutor.

Profanity: The expression “Oh my God,” which some find disrespectful, is heard once or twice, but I caught no offensive profanity.  In fact, God is not mentioned at all.

Violence: Some of the bullying leads to brutalizing beatings of Dre.  Then there is the final match, where the bad kid is told by the bad teacher to hurt his opponent, even going so far as to attempt to break his leg.  But even in this, lessons are learned. Blood: None

Sex: None – two preteens share a kiss; keeping with the film’s theme, the boy shows respect for the girl and her family.

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: None

Other: None

Running Time: Unknown
Intended Audience: Family

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