Monday, April 11, 2011

The Karate Kid (2010) by Harald Zwart

The Karate Kid

Directed by Harald Zwart

Starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan

Run time 140 minutes

Rated PG

Plot Summary: The Karate Kid is a remake of the 1984 film starring Ralph Macchio. It starts when Drek Parker (played by Jaden Smith) must travel to and live in China because of his mother's job. He is unhappy there and is bullied from time to time. He is bullied by a student of a karate school that seems to specialize in violence and anger and is challenged to a tournament fight. Smith's unlikely hero comes in the form of an old man played by Jackie Chan. He agrees to be Smith's mentor and to prepare him for the tournament. As in the original film, Smith learns to do karate via non-traditional methods such as taking off and putting on a coat. Smith slowly learns to acclimate to Chan's methods just as he learns to acclimate to a new home in China. With the tournament only days away, Smith feels uncertain but ready.

Critical Analysis: Being a fan of the original, I was skeptical at first of this remake, but I think Zwart pulled it off beautifully. He kept the same core story but changed enough elements to make it new and exciting for anyone who already knew the basic plot elements. The most important part, the young boy learning to become a young man through karate, respect, and even love, was kept fully intact.

Despite his short acting resume, Jaden Smith did a great job of playing the angsty and skeptical teenager and later the respectful student. He is just charming enough that even when he's in a bad mood in the film, the audience is pulling for him. Chan's age is definitely showing in this film but in a good way. He plays the mentor role very well and even steals the show in a few brief fight scenes. Chan's expertise in Kung Fu truly shows in the film and it was a pleasure to watch.

The only thing that holds The Karate Kid from being another masterpiece is that Zwart has done little to change the sports movie formula. In the 80s, it was still a new and exciting film genre that most audiences could not get enough of. Twenty plus years later, the formula is getting a bit stale. Despite the cosmetic changes and a few other interesting details in the story, The Karate Kid still unfortunately illustrates many stereotypes and pitfalls of the genre. Other than its predictability, though, The Karate Kid shines as one of the better kid and teen-friendly films I saw in 2010.

Reader's Annotation: When a member of a violent karate school challenges him to a tournament, Drek Parker will have to learn respect and discipline to overcome his opponent.

Author Information: Norweigan director Harald Zwart has a relatively short directing career, having directed Agent Cody Banks and The Pink Panther 2, but is mostly praised by critics. He is currently working on a film adaptation of the card game Bakugan.

Genre: sports film, family film

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: Many sports films depict the team or individual losing at the last tournament or event. Why is this? What are the writers and directors trying to convey?

Try to do your OWN crane kick.

Reading Level/Interest Age: 8-17

Why I included this title: I'm a fan of the 1984 original so I decided to watch this. It was one of the best family-friendly films I'd watched all year. Chan and Smith have a great on screen mentor/student presence, almost as good as Ralph Macchio's and Pat Morita's.

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