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Movie Review: The Karate Kid (2010) Loses Too Many Battles

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Written by Hombre Divertido

Set in present-day China, young Dre (Jaden Smith) is forced to adapt to a new environment after his mother (Taraji P. Henson) is relocated from Detroit by her employer.  During his first day in China, Dre manages to make an American friend (Luke Carberry), meet the apartment handyman (Jackie Chan), catch the eye of a local girl (Wenwen Han), and gets beat up by the neighborhood bully (Zhenwei Wang).

Yes; “his mother”, “American friend”, “apartment handyman”, “local girl”, and “neighborhood bully” are all accurate, and the titles are as developed as the one-dimensional characters and performances in this film, which is ultimately its downfall.

The supporting actors in The Karate Kid are given little to do, while the lead actors, who are given room to stretch their thespian limbs, land extremely limited blows. Jaden Smith gives a reasonably enjoyable performance, but in many scenes, his inexperience is evident. He has managed to learn to deliver a well-timed, poignant look when needed, but the skill of doing the same verbally with any consistency still eludes the young actor. Even more disappointing in the film is the performance of Jackie Chan, though ultimately the responsibility for this falls on the writers and director. Chan has proven over his career that he posesses the ability to display not only energy on screen, but excellent comedic timing as well. In The Karate Kid Chan is relegated to lumbering around and delivering one solemn line after another.

Eventually Mr. Han the Handyman manages to teach The Karate Kid enough kung fu to defeat all the local kids, who grew up learning the art form, in a tournament and thus earn their respect. Unfortunately this takes well over two hours and plods along at a pace that seems as painful as trying to sit through an episode of the 1989 Karate Kid Saturday-morning cartoon series.

The comparison of this film to the 1984 is inevitable, and the 2010 version fails monumentally. Though advertised by many associated with the film prior to its release as not a remake, the 2010 version follows the same story as the original too excessive detail in storytelling and dialog. In essence, all that was done was to take a familiar story and place it in an unfamiliar environment, though there are other detrimental changes as well. The roles of the supporting characters have been whittled down to stereotypes, the humor and personality have been extracted from all involved, the creative training techniques have been reduced to wardrobe changes, and the action sequences are poorly choreographed and filmed. All this was done while somehow managing to make the story longer.

We may not have liked the villains in the original film, but they were relatable. They all had names; we knew who they were and what they were about. Not so in the new release.

We loved Daniel (Ralph Macchio), Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki 'Pat' Morita), and Mrs. Larusso (Randee Heller) in the original. They had a sense of humor. There is no humor in this new film, and the portrayal of Dre’s mother by Taraji P. Henson exceeds the level of one-dimensional annoyance established by anyone in the 1994 film The Next Karate Kid. Was Jada Pinkett Smith too busy to step in here?

Recommendation: The filmmakers should be chastised for taking the beloved, energetic, and humorous mentor Mr. Miyagi and turning him into the humorless lump Mr. Han, who does nothing but beat up twelve-year-olds, and yell “Focus!” throughout the entire climactic scene of the film.

The 2010 version of The Karate Kid is trite and manipulative storytelling at its worst. Showing us that Dre’s father is dead in the first scene of the film, and then later showing us that Mr. Han’s family was killed, in hopes of a bonding along with the characters shows little respect for the audience.

Don’t do it. Watching the original or its two sequels would be a far more pleasurable experience.

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Formerly known as The Masked Movie Snobs, the gang has unmasked, reformed as Cinema Sentries, and added to their ranks as they continue to deliver quality movie and entertainment coverage on the Internet.
  • Alphabet soup

    I did not approve of this movie, but thy review is a little scathing. The actors did well, but the story was terrible.

  • sstarks

    I liked the movie and would see it again.

  • genlon

    The movie was great, but this review demonstrates an amazingly narrow mind.

  • Kevin

    Watched it 4 times in a row… still want to watch it again.

  • Mobert

    All the people claiming to want to see it again must have worked on the movie or something. This movie should not have been made. Since they insisted on making it anyway, a little more effort wasn’t too much to ask.

  • Elly

    My husband and I loved the movie, and the performances of Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. I was concerned about my 11 year old daughter finding it on the brutal side in the fighting scenes. However, she loved the movie! That’s coming from a junior black belt in Tae Kwon Do, who practices non-violence.

  • Shirley McKoy

    This movie was absolutely great. Enjoyed it from the beginning to the end. Took my nieces and nephews and they also thought it was the bomb. Loved it!!!! Plan to see it again.

  • Ryan

    I haven’t seen it yet, but agree that this critic is narrow minded, and doesn’t give this film a chance. It sounds a bit like he/she had his/her mind made up long before watching the film. I’m going to see it just because you bashed it.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “I haven’t seen it yet, but agree that this critic is narrow minded”

    Considering you haven’t seen it yet, how do you know the critic is wrong, Ryan? Sounds like the narrow-minded one is you.

  • MisShelly

    I took my 7 yr old boy to the film and during the last 5 minutes he asked me if the Karate Girl was going to win! The whole time he thought Little Dre was a girl! I had to laugh.

  • Ryan F.

    You’re narrow-minded, this movie was awesome. You’re not giving the film a chance. Go watch the damn thing.

  • rak

    this muvi was absolutely awsom!!..
    the review makes me thnk tat the one whu rote wd ve ran out of his mind..
    plannin tu watch it again! …

  • Daryl

    Yea I’m 24 and in my opinion i liked this much better than the first. This critic says he doesnt know what the villians are about?? Pretty easy to figure out.. black kid moves to china and hits on girl who is being pursued by chinese kid = getting bullied around.

  • mando

    action scenes poorly shot. Blurry tight shots. Made me dizzy. Too much camera movement. Pull back a bit and I would have enjoyed it much more

  • Tim

    I go to the movies to be entertained and this movie delivers. It was great!

  • tru

    I’m not sure how it is possible for you to enjoy a movie when you are only looking for faults. I loved the emotion of the film. Jaden may not be strong in some areas, but it’s not like he’s been doing this forever. You have to respect all that he learned to prepare. And to say that his bio mother should have made herself available, he has already made a movie with his father…this was a great opportunity for him to be out of their shadows. This blog is your opinion and I understand that, but maybe next time you should focus on enjoying the movie instead of trying to hate it. I thought it was a great movie and will be purchasing it on dvd as soon as it hits the shelves.

  • Liza

    What the heck with this people writing this stupid stuff! The movie is AWESOME!!!

  • Sketch

    Okay, I don’t know what the author was looking for in the film if anything but if he didn’t find it, that’s his loss. I gave up trying to compare originals to remakes a long time ago. It started when they decided to turn every comic and novel into a big screen bucks. That said, this movie is a remake that stands alone for the new generation and the 80’s kids. Chan and Smith’s performances were very convincing and while Smith is a little rough around the edges, remember… HE’S A KID! He did 10,000,000 times better than the brats in Chan’s last crap film “The Spy Next Door” so what more could you ask for? This movie was phenomenal, I seen it once, I’m going again and I’m getting the DVD as soon as I can to sit it right on the shelf next to the 1984 classic. Let’s see Daniel’s crane kick vs. the Snake style. Hmmm, my money’s on Little Dre!

  • Joe

    I disagree with this review to the fullest extend possible. Smith and Chan’s performance were very convincing minus a few tough spots. Some people demand to much out of a child [Jadan]. I found the movie very entertaining and eould enjoy watching it again.

  • Littleton

    I’m glad that I don’t pay much attention to movie critics and I read them sometimes just out of curiosity. This review was wrong though and you are too closed minded to be a critic. The movie was great and we enjoyed it completely. It was well done, entertaining and fun…what a movie should be. People of all ages will enjoy it…that’s hard to accomplish these days. I too will buy it when it comes out and would pay to see it again. Enjoy it !

  • michael

    It was too violent imo. Everything else is what you’d expect from a children’s movie. My kid has seen it a few times and i get a break.