Thursday, June 17, 2010

‘The Karate Kid!’ Finally a remake that packs a punch!

‘The Karate Kid (2010)’, is a remake of the 1984 version of the same name and one could ask do we really need to remake ‘The Karate Kid’. At first my answer would have been a resounding ‘NO’ – however after a completely enjoyable two hours of film going, I have to admit that I am glad they did.

Director Harald Zwart (The Pink Panther 2 – really did we need two of those Steve Martin?) smartly realizes that a simple remake just won’t cut it and opts for more of a reimaging than anything else. We all know the story; we know how everything will end, and yet the performances of the very talented Jaden Smith (son of Will & Jaden Pinkett Smith) and Jackie Chan carry the film to a very exciting conclusion.

In this ‘retelling’ – Jaden Smith is Dre Parker, a young boy who is transplanted from Detroit to China when his mother (Taraji Henson) is transferred by her company (why China, you might ask…why not China?). This is a classic fish out of water story, not only is Dre American, he is Afro American which makes him even more of a standout in a very closed society. There are a surprising amount of ‘American’ kids in the background – one of which befriends Dre in what could have been an interesting plot but was left to the wayside in favor of a pre-teen romance story for Dre and new found love Meiying (Wenwen Han). Meiying, a talented violinist, who seems to be shadowed by a middle school Kung Fu bully who is coached by a fascist martial arts master (‘No mercy!’ he preaches, in a nice throw back to the orginal). The bullies turn the tough talking Dre into their personal punching bag until Dre discovers that the apartment handy man, Mr. Han (Chan) is a Kung Fu master.

As I said, we all know what is going to happen next, but the road to get there is fun and exciting. The training scenes, one of which is a simple task of picking up a coat, putting it on and removing it again (wax on – wax off), the deep, mystical lessons of life and an extended road trip all seem original and new with these two very talented individuals at the helm. Chan, always likable, plays Han with just a bit more emotion than his previous roles, proving that he might have an acting future beyond action films.

All the while we know where this is going up to the Kung Fu tournament – we even know who is going to win, but darned if I didn’t find myself cheering until the very end! This may not be great filmmaking, but it is rousing 4 star entertainment with a solid, positive message that will have you cheering for the good guy until the very end.

My Redbox Rental Pick is keeping within the action genre and although not a family friendly as ‘The Karate Kid’ – ‘From Paris with Love’ is just as entertaining (if only much less deep!) and a welcome escape from the heat and humidity for a small saw buck! James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is a personal aide to the US Ambassador in France and a low level CIA agent. In a bid to move up the ranks of the CIA – Reece accepts the assignment to work with Charlie Wax (John Travolta) – a trigger happy, slightly crazy field agent. Travolta obviously has fun in this role and while the action may be a bit over the top – this 2 ½ start thriller is worth the rental!

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