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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Karate Kid’ fights to the top

    Jaden+Smith+as+Dre+on+the+Great+Wall+of+China+in+Columbia+Pictures+KARATE+KID.
    Jaden Smith as “Dre” on the Great Wall of China in Columbia Pictures’ KARATE KID.

    During a pivotal scene in “”The Karate Kid,”” Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) looks at Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) after being given a shirt for competition and says, “”Wow! This is the same one Jet Li had!””

    Maybe so, little Parker, but Jet Li never had one like this.

    By updating one of the most precious pop culture icons in the original “”Karate Kid,”” this new version had perhaps one of the biggest hills to climb in terms of gaining audience approval while still managing to make the source material fresh and compelling.

    No need to worry about any of that, because “”The Karate Kid”” at its core is the best remake of a beloved film that we’ve ever seen. The film starts with 12-year-old Parker and his mother (Taraji P. Henson) making the difficult move to Beijing, China. Dre quickly falls for a local girl who attends his school, which leads to a lot of trouble with the neighborhood bully. Several rough beatings follow until Mr. Han steps in and attempts to stop the bullying by entering Parker in a martial arts tournament. One problem: Dre doesn’t know any martial arts.

    One of the best decisions the new movie makes is to ditch the mostly-comedic tone of the first film in favor of a more serious and tragic tale. At the center of this is Chan, who hasn’t been this good since 1978’s “”Drunken Master”” and turns in a career-saving performance.

    He achieves the right blend of comedic timing and strong physical ability while still possessing a tortured soul, which creates easily one of the strongest characters we’ve seen this summer not named Tony Stark. It’s good to see Chan actually doing real martial arts again, because the slapstick version seen in films like “”Rush Hour”” had definitely gotten old.

    An equally good decision was to make Beijing an integral part of the story. When Smith gets fed up with the fact he’s not fitting into a new culture and shouts at his mother in frustration, the moment is entirely believable and moving. The setting is exotic and comes through in nearly every scene.

    In the end, the movie’s success lies in the relationship between Han and Parker. The two characters don’t possess the same charisma as Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) did in the original film, but Han and Parker have their own unique and intense relationship that works well.

    Chan gives the performance that drives the movie. Once you learn his tragic backstory, you’ll be roped in until the end. Smith also establishes himself as a funny and talented child actor and is a name to keep an eye on. Henson does a solid job as Dre’s mother, and Harald Zwart’s directing is definitely a step up from “”The Pink Panther 2.”” Zwart takes minimal risks with his photography and sticks with what works, which proves to be a very smart decision here.

    “”The Karate Kid”” is a remake of a revered icon from the 1980s. Many things are very similar to the original, including nearly the entire plot, but the new scenery and effective performances from both Smith and Chan will keep you in your seat during the whole film.

    The fight choreography is top-notch and the directing is solid. “”The Karate Kid”” may be the best popcorn flick yet this summer.

    Final Grade: A

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