Karate Kid, The (2010)

Rated: PG for bullying, martial arts action violence and some mild language.
Length: 140 minutes
Grade: B-BB+C=B
Budget: $40 million
Box Office: $358 million (177 U.S., 181 Intl.)

Written by: Christopher Murphy (First movie) and Robert Mark Kamen (Transporter 1-3, Kiss of the Dragon, Fifth Element, original Karate Kid 1-4, and Taps )
Directed by: Harold Zwart (Pink Panther 2, Agent Cody Banks, and One Night at McCool’s)
Starring: Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan
With: Taraji P. Henson, Wenwen Han, and Zhenwei Wang.

When his mother is transferred to China, a Detroit boy finds himself in love with a local girl but in trouble with a gang of thugs. Desperate, he turns to the maintenance man for kung-fu training in this remake of the Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita classic.

Entertainment Value: B-
I don’t know why, but remakes are always an impossible difficult thing. If they honor the original too much, they’re just being parasites. If they deviate from it, they’re defiling the thing I love. In this case, it’s a true remake, from the broad plot strokes even down to several of the specific lines. Although this happens all the time with plays, it just always seems wrong when done with movies. I have to admit, I wanted to dislike this film. Nevertheless, I found myself enjoying it at least moderately well. The problem here, of course, is that in the parts where the original is brilliant, this is only decent. And in the parts where the original was weak, well they’re just part of the charm of a “classic,” right? For instance, I can watch the tournament sequence in the original and get goosebumps every single time. The tournament here did nothing for me. Also, there seemed to be something missing in the menace of the gang if only because they’re so much younger here, but when your hero is the 84 pound Jaden Smith, I guess the bad guys need to be smaller, too. All that being said, it’s good and if it brings this wonderful story to a new generation of kids, I can live with it.

Superficial Content: B
Drugs/Alcohol B+, Sex/Nudity A, Violence B, Language A-
There is one scene of drunkenness. There is no sexuality other than young people dating. I think there was one mild profanity. The bullying and fighting are the only real concern, and they’re more tame here than in the original. PG is just right. We didn’t let our kids watch it only because they already fight enough and we didn’t want to encourage kicking “to boot.”

Significant Content: B+
Fighting is not just a specialized set of motions but an integrated part of an overall life philosophy. We must learn to have patience inside ourselves and to create peace around us through balance. When life or people knock you down, you can still choose to be brave and get back up to try again. Confronting fear is the only way to conquer it. Respecting others is an essential element of personal self-worth. If you behave with dignity and valor, even your enemies may come to admire you. Weak people are shaped by their environment, strong people shape their environment.

Artistic/Thought Value: C
I’ve tried three different times to figure out what to write in this section, and I can’t find the heart to say much of anything. The original is brilliant. Everything here seems like a muted and slightly “less” version of that. Besides, with the nearly verbatim reproduction, I feel like I can’t comment on this one beyond what I figure we all know of the original. It’s a morality play about bullies, underdogs, and peace-seeking violence.

Discussion Questions:
~In this movie, the “good guys” are ultimately the strongest and therefore they win and earn respect. How would this have gone differently if that had not been the case. In real life, the bad guys are often actually stronger. How should we deal with bad people when they cannot be beaten at their own game? Consider how Mr. Han might have dealt with the evil teacher differently if he didn’t believe his own kung-fu was strong.
~Was Meiying’s father right or wrong to forbid his daughter from seeing Dre? Do you think he is a good or a bad influence on her? What does his final solution show about him?
~How difficult do you think it is to raise a child by yourself as a working mother? In what ways could our society do better at helping single mothers? How might the church meet needs in this area?
~One of the repeated ideas is that we have to “play the spaces or pauses” properly. What does this mean?
~Do you think it’s better to completely remake a great original movie almost verbatim or to try to tell a new story with the old characters? Why do we tend to think so differently about plays being performed by different people as opposed to movies being remade?
~Are there any ways in which Dre was responsible for or contributed to the conflicts he had with Cheng? Can you think of any ways he could have handled the situation differently?
~Does this movie offer a real solution to the problem of bullying? Have you ever been the victim of bullying? Have you ever been the bully?
~Dre eventually becomes frustrated with Mr. Han because it seems he isn’t teaching him Kung-Fu at all, when of course he is. Has God ever taught you something even though it didn’t seem like He was doing anything productive in your life?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~Watching the cobra lady.
~The anniversary of the car crash.
~The tournament.

Overall Grade: B
A decent if unnecessary remake of the now-dated but brilliant original, but why didn't they call it "The Kung-Fu Kid?"

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