Editor still needed for dull Karate Kid remake
Moments after the credits of The Karate Kid ended - more than two-and-a-half hours after the listed show time - I was left with only one question: Where has all the magic gone? This is not the Karate Kid I grew up with, a fun film about a boy learning not only how to fight, but also how to live.
No, this is a mean-spirited film that's entirely too long - it takes forever to get going and, once it gets going, still consists of too many cutaways to reaction shots for the action to be very much fun. I'm unsure exactly what director Harald Zwart (One Night at McCool's) was trying to accomplish with this remake, but all he succeeded in doing was taking a beloved classic and making a film that's surprisingly violent and unbearably boring.
This Karate Kid follows Dre Parker (Jaden Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness) as a 12-year-old from Detroit who moves to Beijing, China, after his mother - who works for an unspecified car manufacturer - is transferred. In case audience members forget where the Parkers moved from, Dre spends several scenes wearing shirts promoting the Lions and the Tigers (don't worry, there are no Bears in Detroit).
Once in Beijing, Dre is allowed to leave his apartment and run around town, as he pleases, and he soon sees a cute girl at the park. He talks to her but is soon approached by Cheng (newcomer Zhenwei Wang) and his group of bullies, and Cheng proceeds to whoop up on Dre.
Dre soon attempts to get revenge on Cheng and company but soon, after a long foot chase, finds himself surrounded by the gang with no escape. Two of the boys hold him down, while Cheng punches him, before Mr. Han (Jackie Chan, master of action/comedy) comes to Dre's defense.
Han then takes Dre under his wing, teaching him kung fu to train for the big tournament that will no doubt end with Dre and Cheng competing in the final match.
Somewhere along the way, however, Zwart and screenwriter Christopher Murphey took all the fun out and filled in the gaps with intense dramatic moments and young romance. What's missing is the excitement of learning a new fighting technique and the fun of finding a new best friend and mentor. In this Karate Kid, it's all business and no pleasure, especially since Mr. Han has more issues to deal with than Dre does.
It's a pity that the film turned out as boring and mean as it did, because Smith and Chan both deliver heartfelt performances that deserve a better movie. Smith, who is 11 in real life and the son of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, has a natural screen presence and is very comfortable in front of the camera. His performance seems natural.
Chan is always a pleasure to watch, a master of physical comedy who has one of the most genuine smiles in the business. So why, one must ask, would you cast him to play a joyless man that never smiles? Chan has brought life to many silly movies that would have otherwise been terrible - such as The Spy Next Door back in January - and it's a pity that he isn't given the chance to bring life to this Karate Kid.
I was also surprised by how intense the violence in this film is - Cheng and his minions fight dirty against Dre - real dirty - and it's just as malicious in tournament play as it is on the street. While the fighting in the original Karate Kid was also dirty, to be fair, there's something about the violence in the remake that made me very uneasy. It seemed a little too extreme considering the material.
But this Karate Kid's biggest flaw is the extreme length - it clocks in at almost two-and-a-half hours and needs some serious editing. There's an absurd amount of time spent setting up the plot and, even once the training begins, it's just plain boring. People go to movies like The Karate Kid, I believe, to have a good time, and there's nothing fun about this movie.
The Karate Kid is rated PG for bullying, martial arts action violence and some mild language. It is currently playing at the Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.