Monday, 28 June 2010

Review - The Karate Kid.

Hi there.
This here is my first film review. Some folks were kind enough to send me to a premiere of the new reboot of The Karate Kid so I am going to stick my two cents about it on here for you to read. Incidentally, instead of furnishing you with the actor names for all characters mentioned, check them out yourself on the film's IMDb page.

So... yeah. It's pretty good! To be honest, I have never seen the original, but I'm familiar enough with the legacy it has to know the storyline and some of the iconic moments. One of these (the using chopsticks to catch a fly scene) is mined for a great visual gag early in the film. The storyline loosely follows that of the original with some key differences. Daniel-san has become Xiao Dre, this film is set in China rather than LA, the age of the 'kid' and his rivals is several years younger (resulting in some surprisingly shocking child-on-child violence) and most importantly, in a move that has caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth on forums across the internet, the film isn't about Karate, but Kung Fu. To be fair, this is acknowledged in the film, and the title remains out of a sense of nostalgia and to illustrate the fact that most people don't know the difference, including Dre's mother.

I wasn't too sure about Jaden Smith, son of Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith (the producers of this movie) to start with, but without noticing, I warmed to him. He's not one of the truly great child actors, but he did enough to make me believe he wasn't only chosen due to nepotism. All the other performers did a solid job. Jackie Chan is forever reliable, here playing Mr Han, the Miyagi-equilvalent ass-kicking handyman who saves Dre from the bullies he manages to enrage by talking to pretty fellow student Mei Ying, resulting in a stand-out sequence where Mr Han takes on 6 children in spectacular fashion. He then goes on to coach Dre to the point where he is able to enter a Kung Fu tournament, the two of them inevitably bonding along the way. As with the original, Dre is taught the fundamentals of the martial art using a series of seemingly-mundane actions (picking up a dropped jacket and hanging it on a peg) and then an obligatory training montage. This pulls out enough new ideas though to stay fresh. Chan's comic timing is as precise as his movements and Smith seems to have inherited his father's skill in goofy charm.

One strength this reboot has is the fact that due to the film being set in China, many characters use faltering English, which leads to some incredible economy of language. One such moment is the upsettingly bleak farewell given to Dre from Mei Ying when she is told by her father not to consort with him anymore. This, despite the faintly silly plot, gives the film an air of authenticity that only rarely spills over into sickly sentiment.

Obviously, the film culminates with the tournament and enough about the film is different to ensure you won't know whether the script will follow the original to the letter or not. I'm not going to spoil it here, obviously.

Anyway, I'd recommend seeing this. It won't change your life, but it might make your day.

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