The Karate Kid (2010) (Blu-ray)
The strange aspect about THE KARATE KID remake/reboot is that it has so many things working against it. First, it’s a remake of an 80’s favorite that many fans felt didn’t need another reboot (don’t forget the disastrous NEXT KARATE KID with Hilary Swank). Second, it stars the seemingly bratty Jaden Smith who annoyed audiences in THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and finally, it had Jackie Chan trying to step into the role made famous by Pat Morita. So the odds were stacked against this and yet, it still managed to be a great film for people of all ages.
This time around, we follow the adventure of Dre Parker (Smith), a displaced Detroit native following his mother (Taraji P. Henson) to China where her job has taken her. It doesn’t take long for Smith to be the target for the local bullies and once he develops a liking to one of their female friends, things get tough on little Dre. But leaping to his defense is Mr. Han (Chan), who begrudgingly teaches Dre Kung-fu and everything that entails. They agree to a cease-fire with the bullies and Dre trains to face them at a tournament. And yes, this is the same basic storyline as the original, but this time it’s set in China.
The thing about the original KARATE KID is that it had a great story, but was covered in 80’s cheese. So although we all hate remakes, this is one that actually makes sense, much like the upcoming remake of FOOTLOOSE, which is another example of a great story smothered with 80’s corniness. What’s surprising about this remake is that the filmmakers put effort into making a good film and didn’t just rely on the name and storyline to sell tickets. Director Harald Zwart took his time showing the beautiful scenery of China and paid homage to the art of Kung-Fu, rather than just hurrying things along and getting people to fight. Those efforts went a long way in making THE KARATE KID a great family film.
Another surprising thing about this is the performance of Jaden Smith. This might be obvious, but he really is his father’s son. When he said the line “that’s just nasty” in reference to Jackie Chan’s disposal of an insect, I could have sworn it was the Fresh Prince reincarnated. Another trait that he has in common with his father is that he can act. Jaden displayed a wide range of emotions in the film, carrying each scene with an ease uncommon for someone his age and with his limited experience.
The supporting cast was fine for what they were, but this movie belongs to Jaden, Jackie and to a lesser extent, Taraji P. Henson. I thought they went a little cartoon-y with the Kung-fu instructor, but it wasn’t distracting. The bullies lost a little of their cheese because we couldn’t understand them and the interactions they had with Dre were verbally limited.
Overall, I was genuinely impressed with THE KARATE KID, not just for how fun it was, but for how well it was made. It’s clear that a lot of time and care was put into making this not only a fun film, but a quality film that will stand the test of time. I can only imagine the sequel is being written right now, so let’s hope they learn from the original’s mistakes in that arena as well.
Video: The video was absolutely stunning. This is one of the best video transfers I’ve seen from Sony and every single color just comes shining through.
Audio: The audio is just as good as the video and everything with equal crispness.
Making-of Featurettes (29:11): I lumped these 9 featurettes into one because they really should be a giant documentary rather than separate, but they cover probably what you expect. We get a couple that focus on Jaden Smith’s training and preparation for the film, a few that deal with Jackie Chan and his involvement and a couple that deal with the director’s path to get the movie made. All of these are very enjoyable.
The Making of The Karate Kid (20:08): This is actually better than a standard making-of featurette in that it really takes you through the process of remaking the original. It kind of combines elements from the separate featurettes, but it’s still a quality special feature.
Alternate Ending (3:32): In this ending, Dre loses the tournament and the bullies continue beating him up. No, not really. It’s not much of a difference and I preferred the one they stuck with.
Interactive Map of China and Chinese lessons: These are two interactive features, the first is pretty neat because it takes you around China with the help of director Harald Zwart. The second just tries to teach you some basic Chinese words. They’re fun to dabble with, but that’s about it.