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The Karate Kid

Submitted by admin on June 13, 2010 – 1:40 pmNo Comment

There’s a new squid in town. I know I saw the original The Karate Kid back in the day, but other than Ralph Macchio’s headband I can’t recall a single image. Now Macchio is cool, especially in Crossroads and The Outsiders, and the proto also featured the talented Pat Morita, whom I had dug since I saw him on Hollywood Palace, and Elisabeth Shue, a goddess among actresses and herself at the start of her career. That was the Orwellian year of 1984.

Flash-forward to the present day and the current The Karate Kid doesn’t even seem like a remake so much as an entity with a mind and soul of its own. Sure, there are parts of TKK that could be from any sports themed, coming-of-age film, like the final contest sequence. It’s the sections of TKK that find a life of its own that defines this film. It is the PG yin of mild sophistication to the PG-13 yang of forgettable action set pieces (think Prince of Persia, or A-Team).

TKK shows off Beijing in all its inner city squalor while also shining a spotlight on the surrounding pristine countryside. A single mom from Detroit (Taraji P. Henson) takes a job in China, dragging along her ungrateful son (Jaden Smith). In the course of his journey from boy to man Smith comes under the tutelage of his apartment building’s maintenance man, a solitary and often gloomy Jackie Chan. Chan delivers the goods in one astounding fight scene but the rest of the time he spends convincing the audience that he’s a master in acting as well as martial arts. Chan particularly boosts the credibility of the film when he recounts his family history with touching emotion, explaining his seemingly outcast state of being while also pointing the plot in the path of victory.

The Karate Kid has pockets full of crowd-pleasing moments. As a film TKK also shows modern Beijing to be a place like any other, a metropolitan city full of bullies and heroes.

-Michael Bergeron

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