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Now in our eleventh calendar year!
PCR #534 (Vol. 11, No. 25). This edition is for the week of June 14--20, 2010.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"The Karate Kid"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

theater seats

"The Karate Kid"  by Mike Smith
Comic Book Confidential: The Seven Soldiers of Victory  by ED Tucker
Father's Day Cinema Therapy:Ten Film Fathers Worse Than Yours (Or Mine)  by Lisa Scherer
Ako (1965)  by Jason Fetters
Merle .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf  by Mike Smith

Starring: Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan
Directed by: Harald Zwart
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 2 hours 18 mins

Here’s something I bet you didn’t know about Jackie Chan. When I was doing film promotions one of my biggest annual events was a benefit showing of the Academy Awards. Months before the event I would write various celebrities and ask for something that could be used for silent auctions and door prizes. Most times I would get an autographed photo. Some times I would get nothing. And usually within 10 days of sending out my request I would get something special from two actors. One was Jack Lemmon. The other was Jackie Chan. And I give Chan bonus points because his stuff always came from China. Speaking of China, the country is the setting for the new and unnecessary remake of “The Karate Kid.”

Dre Parker (Smith) and his mother Sherry (Taraji P. Henson) have just moved from Detroit to China, where Sherry’s job with a Chinese automaker has taken her. Dre soon learns that things are much different in his new country. For one thing, it’s foolish to try to hustle ANYONE in a game of table tennis. It’s also foolish to get on the wrong side of a bully at school. Especially a bully who knows kung fu.

A pretty much by the book regurgitation of the first film, this version has two things going for it: Smith and Chan. With a couple of impressive film credits under his belt it’s hard to believe that Smith will only turn 12 next month. Like his parents (dad Will Smith and mom Jada Pinkett Smith), Jaden has a very natural rapport with the camera, allowing him to bond with the audience. Chan, who has been making movies for almost 40 years, is excellent as Mr. Han, the handyman where Dre lives and the one who teaches him kung fu. This film features the least amount of on-screen fighting that Chan has ever done, causing him to rely on more than his fists and feet. Chan puts his heart into the role, delivering a very strong performance. As I said before, the film is pretty much the 1984 movie without Ralph Maccio. The story is the same: fish out of water keeps getting beaten up…finds nice local man who teaches him to defend himself. While learning to kick butt he also learns about such things as balance. The film, which was shot in China, is an outstanding commercial for increased tourism. Look, it’s the Forbidden City. Look, Jaden Smith is counter punching on the Great Wall. Pretty place to visit I’m sure.

Like the original film, “The Karate Kid” focuses on the mean instructor (Rongguang Yu) and his bully of a student, Cheng (Zhenwei Wang). But the two are much crueler then Sensei’ Creese and John Lawrence in the first film. When Dre convinces Mr. Han to train him to fight in the tournament we learn that, unlike the 1984 film, here the tournament closely resembles MMA fighting. Punches are struck, blood is drawn and a smack in the face it not only allowed it’s encouraged. And while the on screen action is pretty solid the script isn’t. The first thing I wondered is why Sherry, who doesn’t speak a word of Chinese, is brought to China to oversee a factory full of Chinese people. Did they send a Chinese person to Detroit? Is this also a remake of “Gung Ho?” (ok, that film dealt with the Japanese). And where Maccio had to endure many tasks while learning from Pat Morita (wax on/wax off, paint the fence) apparently all Dre has to do is remove his coat. “Jacket on!” Mr. Han intones. Guess what he says next? Yes, I have to admit that I giggled along with the other 12 year olds in the audience.

Some films don’t need to be remade. Even the rumor of a remake of “Jaws” starring Tracy Morgan sent me into a tizzy. “The Karate Kid” didn’t have that kind of an effect but it was close. Yes, the fight scenes are pretty cool. Sadly there’s another 2 hours worth of film that aren’t. On a scale of zero to four stars I give “The Karate Kid”

This week's movie review of "The Karate Kid" is ©2010 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2010, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.