A Remake That Works: Andy Burns on The Karate Kid (2010)

Well the 80’s are back. At least for one weekend, anyway. But which retro replay to check out? Would it be the return of The A-Team, with a whole lot of bang behind it but not the best reviews? Or would it be the remake of The Karate Kid, featuring Will Smith’s son Jaden in the role that made Ralph Macchio famous…for about five minutes.

Seeing as how the Queen seemed to get a kick out of the trailer for The A-Team I figured it would be best to wait for her before I tried to see the film. So instead I was off to see The Karate Kid with our good friend Scotty G. I have to admit that is flick was far from my must see list when I heard that it was coming out, but the great reviews it had been receiving from the press certainly had my interest peaked. And apparently the interest of a whole mess of kids as well, judging buy the vast amount of kiddies that populated the theater where we went.

Now I had no real vested interest in the success or failure of this particular remake. Sure I have fond enough memories of the original one with Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita (I believe that film happened to be the first movie I’d see on a Sunday night, a big deal for my then 7 year old self) and I’m pretty sure I had ordered the novelization from Scholastic, but The Karate Kid was far from a favourite film of mine. That being said, the 2010 remake is probably one of my favourite films of the year so far.

This new version movies from California to China, where our hero Dre and his mother have relocated for work. On his first day in town Dre gets the karate kicked out of him by some local Kung Fu kids, who proceed to pick on his mercilessly until his apartment’s janitor Mr. Han steps in, first las savior and then as teacher. If you’ve seen the original you pretty much know how the story goes from beginning to end. However, the cultural aspect of the film helps The Karate Kid avoid being a retread. And while the originals leads were teenagers, Dre is only twelve, which gives the story and his coming of age a different tone altogether.

In terms of the two leads, both Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan were just fantastic. You could see a few hints of his famous father in Jaden’s performance, but throughout the entire film you can see that the 11 year old is putting a lot of heart and soul into the character of Dre. There are some real moments of weakness for the character and while there are times where Dre could appear a little smug, it’s those weaker moments that remind you that the character is still just a kid. As for Jackie Chan, I never would have thought of him as an “actor” until to his performance in The Karate Kid. While Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi will always be legendary, Chan’s Mr. Han is far more understated and dramatic and the martial arts legend pulls of his role beautifully.

The Karate Kid isn’t perfect mind you. At a little over two hours it does drag slightly (I think the rather talkative 6 year olds behind Scotty G and I were noticing that). But overall the film was really a pleasant surprise, thanks to a great cast and an endearing story that has stood the test of time.

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