Hollywood has been rampant with remakes these days. For the most part, a lot of them, at least in recent memory, have been awful (Clash of the Titans, A Nightmare on Elm Street etc.) This week Hollywood brings us a remake of the classic 1984 film, The Karate Kid, starring mini Will (Jaden Smith) and Jackie Chan. The film promises a fresh take on the original with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. So the question is, does the film fall flat on its face or is it able to deliver the final blow?
The Karate Kid tells the story of a young boy named Dre (Jaden Smith) who is living with his mother Sherry (Taraji P. Henson) in Detroit. One day, due to reasons that are never made totally clear, Dre and Sherry have to move to China. Upon arrival in China, Dre has trouble fitting in with the rest of the kids. Getting into fights and getting bullied, Dre hates his new home and longs to go back to Detroit. One day while getting beat up by the local school bullies, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), a maintenance man in the building Dre lives at, sees the situation and steps in, easily taking care of the bullies.
One thing leads to another and Dre ends up unintentionally being entered into a Kung Fu tournament where he will be forced to go up against the local school bullies. Now Dre has to prepare for his tournament and with the help of Mr. Han, a kung fu master himself, he will give it everything he has in hopes of proving himself.
Let me start off by saying that at over 2 hours, this film is far too long. To wait over 2 hours to see Dre fight in the tournament is absurd, especially when the rampant amount of cliches and predictability lead us to know exactly how the ending will play out. I haven’t seen the original but I still knew exactly how it would all end up. The film could have been trimmed down a lot. A lot of the montages were far too long, not to mention they were aided by music that had no place being in the film.
Speaking of music, the film had a lot of odd choices for songs that you wouldn’t expect from a movie called The Karate Kid and set in China. Song choices like Bang Bang by K’nann, Low by Flo Rida, Poker Face by Lady Gaga, Down by Jay Sean etc, none of these songs really had any business being in the movie and just sounded awkward when they came up.
Back to the length though, the film really dragged on. It started off strong but it lost the pacing in the middle. The mid section was just scene after scene of Dre training and it just got ridiculous. If I had to see Dre do the “put on the coat, take off the coat, hang the coat up” exercise one more time I would of walked out (you’ll know what scene I’m talking about if you see the film).
The length of the film is absurd and especially in the middle it goes by very slow. I understand that they are trying to build anticipation in the audience but the pacing is just so poor that the only thing they are building in the audience is unrest.
The paper thin script offers little to no depth and characters like Sherry are just poorly written. We literally know nothing about her. Why was it so important that she had to move from Detroit to China? How did her husband die? What was her job? What does she do all day? None of these things are answered.
The film follows a straight line and plays it paint by the numbers for the entire run. As the audience, even if you haven’t seen the original, you know exactly what will occur.
Rigorous training? Check
One too many montage sequences? Check
Revenge had? Check
Lessons learned? Check
The list goes on. Everything you expect to happen will happen.
The acting isn’t terrible but there were a few issues. Jaden Smith, being the son of one of the most powerful actors in Hollywood, doesn’t really extract the sympathy that his character should. He comes off as a bit cocky and a big shot. His struggle never really resonates with the audience. While he is entertaining to watch I just don’t think he was well suited for the role. He’s not a bad actor he just doesn’t fit the role. Smith has the same charisma as his father and is very watchable but never really makes us sympathize with his situation. He just has to much charisma and swagger that he never seems vulnerable.
Jackie Chan does a good enough job but playing a Chinese man with poor English, a lot of his lines get lost in translation. I found myself wondering if he was speaking Chinese or English at some points because his accent was so thick. The sound mixing also dropped at a few points so the dialog was hard to make out. This was a noticeable error and occurred far too often.
Taraji P. Henson is usually good in all of her movies and with what she has here she makes do. Her part was poorly written and her character weakly developed but she gives it an honest shot and does a good job. She offers a moral anchor for Smith to play off of and her performance is respectable.
The fact that the kids in this film are so young doesn’t make it any more enjoyable. It’s somewhat uncomfortable to see Jackie Chan, a grown man, beating up a bunch of 12 year old kids. It’s even more uncomfortable to see these young kids viciously beating each other up. I was once that age and I’m sure no one I knew at that age was that vicious and ruthless.
Overall, The Karate Kid just has too many problems to be enjoyable. It’s far too long, it oozes with cliches and predictability, Jaden Smith is way to cocky to be playing the role and there are far too many awkward moments (the odd music, kids trying to break each other’s bones, some awkward culture clash moments, the list goes on). Ultimately The Karate Kid was not enjoyable, it started off good and I was excited to see where it would go, but it slowly started to get worse and worse. The film took itself way to seriously and I found myself laughing out loud a number of times at the ridiculousness of some scenes. By the end the only thing I could think was “wow, I should have seen The A-Team”.
A cliched and predictable script mixed with the miscasting of Jaden Smith make The Karate Kid a pretty dull film. Stick with the original.