The ‘Karate Kid’ takes the slow boat to China

2010-09-21 00:00

FOR many, the Smiths are regarded as the First Family of Hollywood. Both Will and Jada are well established in their own right and they seem to have the Midas touch with their individual projects invariably turning to box-office gold.

Acting as producers on the rebooted version of The Karate Kid they have created a film suited to grooming young Jaden Smith into an A-lister of the future.

Throwing in the exotic locale of China and the themes of perseverance and courage, this is the ideal learning experience for the sprog. With a $62 million opening weekend stateside, it appears that audiences­ like it too. Is it a case for handshakes all around? I am not entirely sold.

The story involves a mother and son relocating from the United States to China. It appears that one or two of the locals are not en- amoured by the presence of Dre (Smith), the young American, especially when he chats up a pretty girl. A couple of beatings and a dash of intimidation later, Dre is saved by maintenance man and part-time kung fu master Mr Han (Jackie Chan).

Han initiates some curious training techniques (picking up jackets) and then a trip to a Chinese temple where Dre discovers a woman perched on the edge of a precipice perplexing a viper with kung fu. Is this a potential signature move? Okay that’s enough, you should know the rest.

John G. Avildsen directed the eighties Karate Kid having picked up a directing Oscar for Rocky. He had the underdog story well and truly taped. Not only did he have Peter­ Cetera on the soundtrack (no, I’m not blushing), he also had Mr Miyagi (Pat Morita) doing a great Yoda impersonation.

He was the definitive guru, catching flies with chopsticks and revealing that polishing cars is good for your karate technique — “wax on, wax off”.

Fast forward to 2010 and present-day director Harald Zwart seems to have lost the streamlined feel of the original, distracted by the sights and sounds of China and delivering a whopping 140-minute movie. Twenty minutes less would have made it better.

Gripes aside, it is a good family movie with good values. It’s also worth the price of the ticket to see Chan cry — which is surprisingly convincing. ***

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