Harold Zwart’s The Karate Kid hits theaters today and based on the lively reaction of my screening audience, I’m guessing it’s going to be a huge crowd-pleaser this weekend. But is the film any good? Hit the jump for some of my brief thoughts and feel free to leave your own in the comments below.
Man, I wanted to hate this movie. Every part of it smacked of opportunism, from the inclusion of the largely unproven Jaden Smith (whose parents, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, are producers on the film) to the fact that the title had been re-appropriated for an entirely different setting with only cursory similarities to the original plotline. Heck, they aren’t even doing Karate in this film, a fact that Smith’s character expliciy points out.
In the end, though, I couldn’t help but be taken in by the film’s charms. Smith proves he has a lot more acting chops than The Day The Earth Stood Still would have you believe. And Chan is perfect as the grizzled landlord, perhaps because on some level, he’s playing a version of himself, a once-great fighter who is relegated to inflicting his martial arts prowess on teenagers. But the fight scenes actually work and occasionally feel, well, brutal.
There are a boatload of problems with the film. James Horner’s score sounds like diluted leftovers from Avatar and the film sports a whopping 135-minute runtime, which is baffling and unnecessary given how little it does in the way of character development for the those who aren’t played by Jaden Smith. Still, the main character arc of the film works wonderfully and it even got a little bit dusty for me during certain sections. For me, The Karate Kid was most successful when it was evoking all of the martial-arts-as-redemption films I saw as a kid, including those I would rather not admit that I saw. I had a great time with it.
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