By Eric Villanueva ’11
The lyrics of once little-known artist Joe Esposito’s 1980s mega-hit on “The Karate Kid” soundtrack, “You’re The Best,” echo throughout the fourth addition to the much-beloved series “The Karate Kid,” in theaters since June 11.
Like any classic remake, the plot of “The Karate Kid (2010)” is edited only slightly from the story of the original 1984 film, but is set in China, which adds just enough of a new twist to an old favorite to make it desirable to see.
In the movie, Dre Parker (Jaden Smith), 12, of Detroit, Mich. moves with his mom and her car factory job to China – a critique of modern times that was not lost on this movie viewer.
Parker discovers fairly quickly that Beijing is a whole different world compared to Detroit, and wants to go home.
At school and on the playground, Parker is bullied and beat by Cheng (Zhenwei Wang), who becomes Parker’s rival, and his gang because of Parker’s welcomed advances on Meiyeng, a violinist and family friend of Cheng.
But, Cheng forgets the first rule of all martial arts: only use it in defense.
When Cheng and his gang chase Parker down, corner him in an alley outside of his apartment and begin to beat him mercilessly, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), a maintenance worker at Parker’s apartment complex, comes to his rescue with the flying fists and healing hands of the ancient Chinese martial art of Kung Fu.
When Mr. Han and Parker go to confront Cheng’s “bad teacher,” Cheng’s Kung Fu master, who beats into his students the mantra of “No weakness. No pain. No mercy,” he challenges Parker to a one-on-one fight with Cheng. But Mr. Han is able to suspend the challenge until an upcoming Kung Fu tournament.
Mr. Han then takes Parker under his wing to teach Kung Fu him for the Kung Fu tournament.
As seen in the film’s trailer, Mr. Han employs the nonchalant, Yoda-like training style of Mr. Miyagi. However, unlike Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), Mr. Han doesn’t get his fence painted or cars and patio waxed. He has “Little Dre,” as he fondly calls Parker in Chinese, repeatedly take off, hang up and put on his jacket all day through rain and shine for several days.
When Parker finally tires of this monotonous, seemingly worthless task, Mr. Han explains to Parker, “Kung Fu is in everything in life: It’s in putting on the jacket and taking off the jacket and how we act with others.” Then, the real training begins.
I won’t say anymore about the plot of the movie because most of it is stripped from the original film, but the photography is worth mentioning – and complimenting.
Of the other movies I’ve seen this summer (“Robin Hood,” “The A-Team” and “Shrek Forever After”), this movie wins the best photography of the summer award so far. Director Harald Zawart has done a phenomenal job capturing real emotions of the characters– yes, Jackie Chan cries – and encapsulating picturesque China – the Beijing skyline, the Forbidden City and the green, temple-lined Chinese mountains – all in two hours and 20 minutes that tick by unnoticed.
Zawart unwraps more of the serene and secretive China that first captivated westerners when it was on the world stage during the Beijing Summer Olympics two years ago, which is what kept me watching despite the recycled plot.
However, some “Karate Kid” fans are unwelcoming of the newest addition to the series.
In “highest rated comments” under the “‘You’re The Best’ Music Video,” with more than 2 million views on Youtube, dmazz1979 wrote that the original 1984 film is “the ONLY karate kid in my book.”
TheT4xid3rmist commented, “People will never forget this movie (“The Karate Kid (1984)”). In a year, they will forget the remake.”
4 out of 5 horseshoes