(I originally posted this review on my Steemit blog)
I checked this movie out of the library, and as a courtesy to future patrons I’m going to scratch angry faces into the DVD with a penknife. I thought “The Karate Kid” (2010) would have some interesting fight scenes and Beijing city sequences—and it did, but these were sparsely scattered across 2 hours and 20 minutes of bad dialogue and lackluster acting.
Okay, a summary: Jadyn Smith, spawn of Will and Jada, stars as Dre Parker, a plucky tween from Detroit. His single mom (Taraji Henson) gets mysteriously transferred to China, so off they go. The mom only speaks English and has no discernible business skills—she dresses in a florescent pink halter dress to walk around their seedy new neighborhood in Beijing—but she’s so valuable to whatever company she supposedly works for that they moved her to China. If the whole production budget was one dollar, maybe a penny was spent on backstory. Half a penny went to continuity. Dre’s mom has no parenting skills either—she’s actually abusive. She smears ice cream on her grumpy kid’s face in a moment that was I guess was meant to be tender. From that awkward point on, I couldn’t care much about either of their fates.
Dre gets beat up by roving gangs of Kung Fu kids (there’s no karate in this “Karate Kid”, only Kung Fu) at his new school, but a beautiful young violin student falls for him anyway. Here again, there’s no plausible reason for the “relationship” plot point. The two have nothing in common and barely speak the same language, plus she’s got six inches on him. The first thing the girl asks Dre is if she can touch his braids, and the relationship stops evolving at that moment. As an actor, Jadyn Smith was a little better than the worst child actors I’ve ever seen (and I read that he did train for three months ahead of this film)—the phrase “Smith family franchise” kept running through my head.
Somewhere in the first half hour of this bloated Jerry Weintraub production, Jackie Chan is introduced as janitor/Kung Fu master Mr. Han. Unlike the original Karate Kid’s Mr. Miyagi, Mr. Han (which translates loosely to “everyman”) is somber, moody, alcoholic, and inexplicably wealthy. Despite being a lowly janitor he owns a huge house in Beijing with a courtyard/dojo. He steps in and saves Dre from the roaming neighborhood Kung Fu punks, and then decides to teach Dre Kung Fu and enter him into a major tournament (he’s actually coerced into this plan by an “evil” Kung Fu teacher, but why give the crappy plot any more of my cognitive abilities). I should mention here that Jackie Chan seems aware of his role as lender of martial arts credibility to a crappy American movie—he barely makes eye contact with the other characters and speaks just above a whisper.
Skipping ahead through a protracted mishmash of school concerts, arcades, Wudang Mountain, and sweeping panoramas of the Great Wall, we’re finally at that big match. The other kids in the Kung Fu tournament have been training since they were fetuses, but just two weeks with Jackie Chan turns “xiao Dre” into a contender. (Dre seems to have dropped out of school to spend all his time touring northern China with Mr. Han—just fine with his abusive smother mother).
With no tangible martial arts skills and minimal command of even his facial muscles, Dre beats out far stronger and highly skilled athletes. He faces his bully in the final round (see the above photo: who would logically win that fight?) and this kid breaks Dre’s leg. But, wait, xiao Dre has superhuman abilities! He lifts his broken leg up into a sloppy crane position and KO’s his opponent with a roundhouse. His mother opens her mouth wide enough to accommodate a grapefruit and cheers for her Kung Fu wunderkind, the losing team bows to Jackie Chan, and the director abruptly rolls the credits, his plotline long since spent.
Despite a budget of, I dunno, 500 million dollars, the best “The Karate Kid” (2010) is going to get from me is 1/5 stars. It was utterly predictable, poorly executed, and a classic example of Hollywood taking a poignant original movie and “restyling” it (read: hacking it to bits) for a new generation of consumers.