Plot: A remake of the 1984 classic. 12 year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) moves to China with his mother (Taraji P. Henson) and is instantly the target of Cheng (Zhenwei Wang), a bully who is also a top kung-fu student. Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), a reclusive maintenance man in Dre’s apartment building, teaches him kung-fu and prepares Dre for an upcoming tournament in which Cheng will also partake in.
The 1984 Karate Kid is one of my favorite movies of all time, so it was really hard for me to get into this remake. But I’ll come right out and say it; there is absolutely no reason for this movie to exist. This is not just me being nostalgic. If you want to see The Karate Kid, than go see the original. This remake does absolutely nothing new. It is scene for scene the original with different character names and a different setting. I’m not just talking about similar scenes. It’s every single detail. This is the prime example of how to do remakes/reboots wrong. Why did Batman Begins work? It did something new with the character and franchise. Why did Superman Returns fail? It’s a worse rehash of the original. We have the same thing here: A pathetic retelling of a classic movie.
It’s not just the same exact scenes and conflicts that are copied. Character reactions and dialogue are ripped right from the original, but they try and slightly tweak them to seem different. Let me give you some examples. In the original, when Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) first asks Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) to fix the kitchen faucet, he gets a little scared and closes the screen door. Dre Parker does the exact same thing action for action in this scene. Oh, but this time he’s asking Mr. Han to fix the shower head. Oh, that is so different. Wow. How clever. I’m glad they remade this. I know it seems like that’s some random detail, but if you’ve seen the original Karate Kid, you’ll notice 800 of the same details happening. The characters literally mimic everything the original actors did.
The dialogue is really what’s pathetic though and drove me nuts. This is how much effort they put into this script. In the original, Mr. Miyagi tells the bad guy karate master, John Kreese (Martin Kove), that it’s not fair for Daniel to face a 5 to 1 problem. In this version, Mr. Han asks the bad kung-fu master it’s not fair for Dre to face a 6 to 1 problem. You’ve got to be kidding me. Now I know what you’re saying. “Hey, I haven’t seen the original Karate Kid, so this was all new to me.” But what you don’t realize is that the original is a superior film and I’m going to tell you why.
Like I said, this remake just spits out the same scenes from the original, but they are more drawn out and boring. The director (Harald Zwart) tries to make it this big epic spectacle, but it’s completely uninteresting. What made the original work was its subtlety. Everything that happened was believable. This is where this version truly fails.
One of my favorite parts about the original Karate Kid were the training scenes. If you haven’t seen the original or this remake, I’m going to give away some spoilers in the next two paragraphs, so be warned. Mr. Miyagi has Daniel basically do house chores like waxing cars, painting fences and so on. Like Daniel, you get frustrated because you aren’t sure where it’s going. But when you finally realize Mr. Miyagi is teaching him how to block, it really hits you hard. The reveal of that scene was not over the top. It was believable, which is why it was so amazing.
In this remake, they do this lame “Jacket on/jacket off” thing for about fifteen minutes. And when the scene finally comes where Dre realizes he is learning kung-fu, it’s complete garbage. He’s doing all kinds of advanced moves that had no correlation to the “jacket on/jacket off” motion. It’s totally ridiculous. The film wants you to buy this as believable like the original, but it fails horribly. And the tournament at the end is worse. Dre is doing moves that no human being could learn in the amount of time he had. But in the original Karate Kid, the stuff Daniel learned was totally believable.
The training scenes in general are total crap. They are way too long. They are boring as hell, and there is nothing clever about them. There is one scene in the movie where Dre and Mr. Han are climbing these long steps. It lasted for eternity.
Is there anything I liked about this remake? Jackie Chan held his own as Mr. Han. This is certainly one of his better acting performances. But his character actually leads me into something else I hated about the film. When Mr. Han rescues Dre from the gang of kung-fu bullies, they have this six minute comedic fight. What made Mr. Miyagi so bad ass in the original was that he defeated the bullies in about ten seconds. Isn’t that more powerful than some lame drawn out comedic fight sequence? I guess that’s just me. Jaden Smith is okay, but he lacks a lot of charisma in the role. At times, he’s just going through the motions.
So please, if you are going to take your kids to see The Karate Kid movie, don’t go to this one. Just show them the original. The only thing outdated about the original is the music. All they did was take the original script and used a thesaurus to replace certain words in the dialogue. This was an astonishingly bad remake. Leaving out the comparisons to the original, it’s simply just a really boring movie. The training scenes bored me to tears.
It’s a bad movie. I have nothing else to say.
Rating: 4.0 out of 10 (Bad)