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The Karate Kid (2010)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/5/2010
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/25/2010
Remakes, remakes, remakes, will it never end?! Can just one week go by when I'm not reviewing a remake?! The remake in question today is The Karate Kid, a remake of the 1984 film of the same name. As usual, the question is, "Did this movie need to be remade?" The Ralph Macchio-Pat Morita original is a touchstone film for a generation, and "Wax on, Wax off" is a quote that anyone my age will recognize. But, having said that, it's not a perfect movie. So, can an update improve upon it?
The Karate Kid opens in Detroit, where we meet Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) and his mother, Sherry (Taraji P. Henson). Sherry is being transferred to the car factory in Beijing (and that's all we ever learn about that), so she and Dre must move to China. Dre is not excited about this. Following the long flight, they arrive in Beijing and begin moving into their new apartment. Sherry sends Dre to tell the maintenance man that the hot water isn't working, and that's when he meets Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), who is stern and non-communicative. Dre goes to play in the local park and meets Meiying (Wenwen Han), and is immediately drawn to her. However, Cheng (Zhenwei Wang) doesn't like this foreigner talking to Meiying and attack Dre. Dre soon learns that he and Cheng attend the same school, and he tries to avoid the bully and his friends. But, he has another encounter with them, which is witnessed by Mr. Han. Mr. Han helps Dre, and attempts to have Cheng's kung fu master call the boy off. Instead, Dre is challenged to fight, and Mr. Han stats the Dre will meet the challenge in an upcoming tournament. Now, Dre must have daily training with Mr. Han in order to learn the discipline which will be necessary to win.
The question of "Did The Karate Kid need to be remade?" becomes a bit harder to answer when one takes a good look at this new film. The narrative structure is almost exactly the same -- boy moves to new city, boy is confronted by bullies who know karate, boy meets old man who knows karate, old man teaches boy karate, boy fights in karate tournament. During all of this, boy meets local girl, boy is told to stay away from local girl, boy doesn't listen. At first glance, the changes made for this new The Karate Kid may seem major, but they really aren't. Instead of moving across the country, Dre move across the world. The fact that he's in a foreign country adds a bit of a new level to the film, but it isn't really explored in the narrative (more on that in a moment). Instead of Dre simply being an out-of-towner, he's from a different culture, and this effects his relationship with the girl. However, this doesn't come into play very much in their courtship. (Speaking of which, dude, you're 12?! Should you really have a love story?!) Other than those two things, the script mirrors the original movie.
The movie tries to seem different by playing up the fact that they are in China...when it serves the script. There are some obligatory scenes where Dre can't communicate with people and Sherry comments on how strange everything seems. And yet, she allows Dre to be out-and-about in the city just after they've arrived. I feel funny letting my kids ride their scooters around the neighborhood. The movie constantly reminds us that we are in China by brining in lots of location footage. Mr. Han and Dre take some field trips to famous locations and the movie isn't shy about using as much of this footage as possible.
Which brings me to my next point. Sure, the shots of places like The Great Wall of China are pretty, but they often feel like filler. And that's not good considering that this movie is 2 hours and 20 minutes long. Yes, you read that right, 2 hours and 20 minutes. This is The Karate Kid not Gone with the Wind. Once we realize that this is exactly like the first movie, things really drag at times. It takes too long for everything to happen and when it does, it's underwhelming. Even with this inflated running time, odd things occur, such as the fact that the English-speaking boy who Dre befriends when he first arrives is never seen after the first act.
So, all of this comes down to one question: Have you seen the original The Karate Kid? If so, there's no need to see this new one, as they are nearly identical. Yes, the 2010 version is broader in scope and has exotic locales, but it's certainly not a better movie. Also, can you look past the fact that this movie is simply a vanity project for Will Smith's kid? Jaden Smith handles the physical aspects of the role well, but his acting isn't very good, as he has trouble leaving "punk kid" mode. I was never a huge fan of the 1984 The Karate Kid, but I prefer it over this remake. While it may seem dated and cheesy, it also feels honest.
The Karate Kid doesn't have nearly enough scenes with jackets on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, most notably reds, and the image is never too dark or bright. The level of detail is quite good and the depth is impressive as well. The landscape shots show no blurring or pixellation. The Disc offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.7 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good, as we get good separation between the front channels. The surround sound effects are very good as well. The street scenes provide good surround action, as does the tournament. The punches provide some minor bass effects.
The Karate Kid Blu-ray Disc contains an assortment of extras. "On Location: The Karate Kid" is an interactive map which gives us details about shooting in the Wudang Mountains, The Great Wall of China and Beijing. We get details about these locations and Director Harald Zwart provides narration. "Alternate Ending" (4 minutes) has Dre dying...OK, I'm just kidding, it has an unnecessary fight between the two masters. "Production Diaries" (30 minutes) is a nine-part featurette which contains a wealth of on-set footage, rehearsal footage, and comments from the cast and filmmakers. This looks at Jaden's training, the locations, the director, and Jackie Chan on the set. "Chinese Lessons" is an interactive piece which teaches basic Chinese. "Just for Kicks: The Making of The Karate Kid" (20 minutes) is a somewhat detailed, but also quite basic featurette which examines the production, starting with how the idea for the remake came about. It also contains some clips from the original film. The final extra is the MUSIC VIDEO for the song "Never Say Never" by Justin Bieber featuring Jaden Smith.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2010.