Is it the fact that I have had to endure way too many average to really bad movies (Robin Hood, Sex and the City 2, Shrek 4, Twilight 1-3) so that I am now craving for something remotely entertaining?
Is it the fact that the last really good mainstream movies (How to train your Dragon, Kick-Ass) happened months ago?
Is it the fact that after all those horrible things I had to endure this year I am willing to forgive a remotely good movie its clichés?
Or is it the fact that Karate Kid 2010 is actually a well-made movie?
Now this movie is obviously a vehicle for Will Smith’s son Jaden (who previously stared alongside his dad in Pursuit of Happyness and in a sci fi remake I don’t want to talk about) and with the astounding success Karate Kid is enjoying right now (237 million dollars worldwide at a production cost of 40 million dollars) this might very well be the start of an interesting solo career, but let time decide this and let’s get to the actual movie.
The story is very much the same of the original Karate Kid, but instead of taking place in America we follow Dre Parker and his mother to China where the young boy is not only having trouble with adapting to the different culture and environment, he also happens to go to school with some of the worst classmates one could imagine.
Think some kids who applied for the role of the creepy kid from the grudge, but didn’t make it, got angry, thought Batman was a wimp because he didn’t kill, watched Ninja Assassin a tad too often and were trained by the Yakuza – seriously, the beginning of this movie could very well be a horror movie. Every time Dre wants to talk to his love interest the Ninja Assassins pop out of nowhere, punch him, throw down his stuff and to add to this mix we find out that not only are those kids scarier than Sadako, they are also trained by a Kung Fu teacher that makes Darth Vader look like a pacifist.
The movie takes a very long time (unusually long for a kids/sports movie) showing us Dre wrestling with his troubles until we finally get to see the guy that probably accounts for a lot of Karate Kid’s success: JACKIE CHAN!
And so we finally get to the Kung Fu, wait… no we get to learn how to put on our jacket and take of the jacket. Like every kids movie about sports we can’t train without learning a moral lesson.
Remarkably it takes full 80 minutes until we get the first training montage – usually the running time of an entire children’s movie and the movie is still going, yet I never felt bored.
Together with Chan’s charisma the characters keep our interest until the end, where like in every sport movie the hero has to not only face a tournament but also a very personal problem to overcome – in this movie’s case fear.
And what applies to every sport movie applies to Karate Kid as well – you have seen this movie. There is nothing new to this and it’s fairly easy to predict every blow and point that will be scored by the opponents and Dre in the final battle. Yet the fights are well choreographed and while thrilling to look at they never play down the fact that this sport can be brutal and painful. The movie doesn’t forget that Kung Fu is not a dance – well except when Jackie Chan is beating down kids.
Yes, we know how it’s going to end – and sappy can’t even describe the end.
Yes, it’s a little strange that a kid trained in a few weeks can defeat ninjas who have been training kung fu their whole life.
Yes, we have seen characters like Dre and his teacher.
Yes, we know that a guy who knows Kung Fu but works as a janitor will reveal a secret in the course of the movie.
Yet this didn’t bother me, maybe because the movie profits from the Jackie Chan factor and let’s be honest: if your first big role is about you getting trained by Jackie Chan it will increase your street cred in a way that not even Dre at the start of the movie could have imagined.
At the end the simplistic tale, while being a weakness from a creative viewpoint, works in favour of this movie: Karate Kid is a well-made motivational movie, about fear, love, friendship and how to get the strength to put oneself up after getting beaten down.
For all the movies out there that sell shallow messages to children, the message of Karate Kid works in a not too preachy way and if you are looking for a well spent movie evening or just something to spend the last day before Inception and Toy Story 3 finally arrive in Austria, then this is a movie for you.
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