The fact that this movie exists infuriates me. The fact that it’s good makes my head explode in anger.
The good news about The Karate Kid remake is that it may lead the young and dumb to the original 1984 film, one of the finest pieces of cinema ever constructed. Did I stutter? That’s right, The Karate Kid is one of the best movies ever made, and if you don’t believe me or disagree it’s because you haven’t watched the movie in a quarter century. I refuse to let you even proceed in reading this review until you go back and watch it right now. Seriously, don’t come back until you’ve done so.
Okay, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s all sigh and accept the fact that it’s unreasonable to expect any movie, let alone a remake, to match the magnificence of Joe Esposito‘s “You’re the Best Around” and crane kicks that win the heart of Elisabeth Shue and put that terrifying bastard Johnny in his place.
You’ve gotta take this new Karate Kid for what it is — a community theater repertory version of a Shakespeare classic. It’s cute and harmless and lasts too long but your cousin’s friend is in it so you just sit there, smile and clap.
Jaden Smith, the androgynous 11-year-old offspring of Will Smith and Xenu, volcano god, plays Dre, whose auto-worker mom gets transferred from Detroit to China because that happens all the time.
Dre is foolish enough to talk to a girl his own age, and the racist Chinese kids whose parents are totally gonna invade us in the Red Dawn remake (as a provision of the Patriot Act all 1980s remakes will retrofit the Chinese as our one-size-fits-all enemies) give Dre an MMA beat-down.
The bullying continues for scene after scene after scene until it’s like, okay, we get the point these kids are mean — someone come and teach this boy how to pull off comical prop-fu humiliations on these brats before my bladder explodes.
So enter Jackie Chan, who plays apartment superintendent Mr. Han, who knows good kung fu — the kind that can only be learned by doing mundane things such as putting on and taking off your jacket over and over again — as opposed to the evil Cobra Kai bully fu these kids are taught in a fancy dojo.
Han provides big laughs in the movie’s funniest, least appropriate scene, in which he delivers a manual annihilation to the gang of 12-year-olds. Because when you step to Dre, fool, you step to death row.
Never mind that Dre’s mom lets her boy spend an inordinate amount of time with the creepy guy a couple doors down who could very well be a child molester for all she knows. Through the ancient training technique known as the training montage, Han teaches Dre to punch so hard that “whoosh” sound effects emit from his swings, as well as execute elaborate scorpion kicks that can only be completed with wires and CGI, which magically make bullies be nice to you and transform racist people into colorblind fans.
Despite the corniness, it’s joyous, exuberant stuff, and I am ashamed to admit that during the final tournament I rooted for little Dre with actual, unreasonable fear that he would lose.
A final word to parents: This is an excellent movie to take your 3-year-old to if you want to have him laying continuous hi-yah smackdowns to that punk 1-year-old sister of his who totally has it coming.
Starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. Written by Christopher Murphey, based on a story by Robert Mark Kamen. A remake of a 1984 film. Directed by Harald Zwart. Rated PG. 135 minutes.
Phil Villarreal’s humorous money-saving book, Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel, is available on Amazon.