Monday, June 28, 2010

The Karate Kid 2.0

Had a fun “guys” day with the kiddo Saturday. After a week of business travel away, it was great to have some one-on-one time together. He caught up on his Summer Bridge workbook pages while I mowed the lawn, then we headed over to the Metroparks for a three-mile walk. Afterwards, we came home and he helped me clean the interior of my car, then it was time for showers, lunch, and The Karate Kid.

The kiddo has been so excited about this movie for a good month now! I have a fond place in my ’80s heart for the original film, so there was no way I wasn’t going to indulge him in seeing this remake. I debated watching the original movie with him (it’s available on Netflix instant streaming) in the weeks before we saw the new film, but I decided to take a page out of my buddy John’s book and his Star Wars wisdom to recognize that “every generation has a legend.” And John’s absolutely right. Who was I to burst my son’s bubble of excitement over this retelling of the underdog tale? Did he need to know this was a remake of a movie that I probably think a little too highly of because of my own nostalgia and the fact I saw it through a young teenager’s eyes? No.

And where the protagonist of the original film is of driving age, the main character of the remake is 12 – a far closer and relatable age for my kiddo. So he went into the theater armed only with what he knew from the trailers and with zero knowledge of the original’s existence. And we both had a great time! The movie clocked in at two hours and 20 minutes, but hit all the right notes and never felt drawn out or padded. For those of us who remember the Reagan Era, there were nods to the original that were reverential without ever feeling like they were ripping anything off.

The arcs for both Jaden Smith’s Dre Parker and Jackie Chan’s Mr. Han were affecting and resonant. Smith carried the movie like a pro, indicative of his pedigree. Chan was beautifully understated, surprising me by plumbing some emotional depths I didn’t know he could pull off.

One thing I really admired about the movie is that, despite taking place in China, it never dumbed down the language barrier. Instead of going the route of something like The Hunt for Red October (a movie I love) where suddenly the foreign language is abandoned for English with the corresponding accent, the characters who spoke Chinese did just that with subtitles throughout the entire film. A bold choice for a movie aimed at adolescents.

I thoroughly enjoyed this remake of The Karate Kid. I have a feeling it’s going to be one of those movies that leaves an impression on my kiddo and this generation like the original did on me and mine. And that’s a good thing, because there’s always room for well-told underdog stories to inspire us.


Rick Hansen said...

Good move in letting your kid see this without being influenced by the 80's version. I'm glad they didn't try to do a straight remake with Daniel and Mr. Miyagi. I've always enjoyed Jackie Chan as a performer, so I'm encouraged by your positive remarks on his acting. When I took Jacob to the movies a couple weeks ago, I was hoping that he might pick The Karate Kid, but he picked A-Team instead. We really enjoyed A-Team, and I would recommend it, but I still want to see this one - even moreso after your recommendation.

Cindy said...

Since your son is around the same age as the kid in the movie, you're the perfect person to ask - the main thing that bothered me was that with the much younger ages, both the violence in the fighting and the "romance" story bothered me, whereas it didn't when the kids were older in the original film. Any thoughts on that from you as a parent or your son? Maybe I just don't know what kids are doing at what age nowadays.

AB said...

I felt the “romance” was extremely benign. There was nothing sexual about it in the least. There was one kiss (where my kiddo groaned in disgust!) and that was really it. My kiddo’s going on nine. The movie’s main character is 12, so you figure he’s somewhere around the beginning of middle school – that place where boys start to notice girls. And that’s all the more I took away from that friendship/relationship portrayed between the Dre and Mei Ying characters. It didn’t feel shoehorned into the film or age-inappropriate to me.

I didn’t think of it at the time, but I guess the beatings Dre took on the street and in the tournament were intense, but I honestly didn’t think twice about it or romance aspects of the film while watching it.

Good thoughts, as always, Cindy. Thanks for sharing!