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The Karate Kid (2010)

by on 2010/06/14

One school of creative thought goes something like this:  If you can’t do it better — or at least do it differently — you shouldn’t remake a given property.  Case in point:  1998’s Psycho, an ill-received remake of the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock classic of the same name.

A corollary to this wisdom suggests that only “unsuccessful” properties should be remade.  In this case, consider the widely acclaimed Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, based on the relatively obscure Bedtime Story.

So, pray tell, what possible manner of motive inspired this project beyond the allure of profit?

Right about now, anyone concerned with spoilers should stop reading.  Especially if you’ve never seen either version of this movie.  For, if nothing else, The Karate Kid (2010) is a testament to the strength and timelessness of the original Karate Kid (1984); any changes in service of this update are little more than cosmetic.

In both, the protagonist is a young boy, whose single mother accepts a job far from their familiar home.  Together they live in one unit of a shared housing complex, but spend little enough time together that the boy goes exploring.  He meets other local playmates, including a well-to-do young girl, and the bully who resents their instant chemistry.

The bully, his gang, and their abusive mentor make life difficult, but that doesn’t prevent the boy from provoking them into further violence.  Fortunately, the local handyman (with an obsessive interest in auto restoration) protects, heals, counsels and, ultimately, teaches the boy the titular martial art, or its nearest cultural equivalent.

Or rather the man has the boy do a series of puzzling, repetitive tasks which seem unrelated to self-defense but later prove useful.  In the course of this oblique training, the two of them make a pilgrimage to a remote location, and the boy learns of a little-known technique involving the graceful movements of an animal.  He also learns of his teacher’s own personal issues, and this revelation brings them closer together.

By this point in the story, working class boy has become estranged from upper class girl, but they are reconciled in time for a climactic competition.  He meets a succession of lesser fighters, one of whom injures our hero at the urging of a morally corrupt instructor.  The handyman uses the previously-demonstrated healing ability to allow his friend another chance to face his demons.  The boy does so, suddenly mastering that little-known technique, defeating the bully, and winning the respect of most everyone in the movie.

And so, while 2010’s Karate Kid succeeds, anyone familiar with the original will realize this version risks nothing of consequence in order to do so.

* * *

Rated PG for substance abuse and violence

140 minutes

One Comment
  1. most of movie review are underestimate this movie, its look like that they doubts that Jaden Smith can act (which he ironically already proved in The Pursuit of Happiness), is a star, or deserved this movie: See The Karate Kid. I don’t care how you see it. Pirated. Bootleg. Or the old fashion way (like I saw it cause I’m cool like that) by buying a frickin’ ticket and sitting in an auditorium with a bunch of cheering 10 year olds (I swear I’ve never seen kids give a movie a damn near standing ovation like they did during this film’s finale).

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