Color me surprised, this movie was good. REALLY quite good in my opinion.
When I first heard they were remaking/updating/rebooting/sequel-ing The Karate Kid, I met the news with skepticism. I react that way anytime I hear that Hollywood is remaking or rebooting anything. I was indifferent when I heard the movie would star Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith. There's nothing particularly interesting about that pair to me. But, after catching the trailer and noticing that the movie takes place in China, I was intrigued. After leaving the theater Wednesday night, I felt like I had been karate kicked in the face. This movie exceeded any and all expectations I had.
I should take a moment to mention that I have never actually seen the original Karate Kid. I am a child of the eighties and I love martial arts films. I'm not sure why or how I missed The Karate Kid, but somehow along the way I did. I know enough about the original, though, to know that the story follows many of the same beats, but it doesn't repeat the first movie. My man-date to the screening assured me of that. I didn't need to have seen the original to know that, though. The story of The Karate Kid isn't new or surprising -- it's your typical underdog tale. Unassuming and average protagonist overcomes the odds to defeat his/her tormentors. It's a pretty standard formula.
The acting in the film was good. It's not Oscar-worthy material, but it's good. I was worried that the characters would be very simple and one-dimensional, but thankfully, I was wrong. Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan gave their characters enough depth to make them appealing and believable. The back story for Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) is actually quite sad and traumatic -- surprisingly so, I thought. This is one element of the movie that I'm unsure as to whether or not it was in the original. At the end of the day, this is still a family film, so it doesn't get too bogged down with drama. The action is well-choreographed and a lot of fun to watch. Jackie Chan gets a great chance to remind us of why we started to like him in the first place. Let's be honest with ourselves here, he hasn't made a good movie since Shanghai Noon. So I was surprised, once again, to like him so much in this movie.
Perhaps the MOST surprising aspect about The Karate Kid is that the director is Harald Zwart. For those of you unfamiliar with his body of work, he directed Pink Panther 2. For those of you unfamiliar with my body of work, I wrote a review of Pink Panther 2. It wasn't a scathing review -- I always try to put a positive spin on things and I love Steve Martin -- but it was honestly a terrible movie. With The Karate Kid, though, Zwart completely redeemed himself. He maturely handles the story without relying on slapstick or cheap jokes/effects/cameos, and he takes advantage of the beautiful scenery that was available to him in China. I would describe this film as being very complete and entertaining. It's a great example of how to successfully follow a Hollywood formula. Time will tell if Harald Zwart has actually improved as a filmmaker or just got lucky this time.
Regardless, as I stated before, The Karate Kid is a really good movie. I'd go as far as to say that it's the best movie (to get a wide release) that I've seen this year. It's a great family film that I think everyone will find something to like about it. I wouldn't be surprised if this movie is one of the top-grossing films this summer. If you want to be entertained at the theatre this weekend, go check out The Karate Kid.