Day 37: 'The Karate Kid'

Day 37: 'The Karate Kid'

Welcome to The Karate Kid, the Will Smith version. Or as it should have been called, The Kung Fu Sixth-Grader. Or maybe Enter the Mini-Dragon.

I know the original was called Kid, but it wasn't exactly the let's take the littles ones to the latest Pixar adventure. The original Macchio-Miyagi combo worked for teens and adults, but it was basically Rocky for teens.

The new version aims a little lower - say, the height of your 6-year-olds. It's built for parents to bring their children along, and then ask, as I noticed many doing afterwards, "did you get all of it?"

Chances are, they'll love it. Like I said, this is a mass-appeal Will Smith movie for kids. It's his son Jaden who stars, but Smith senior the producer has his fingerprints all over this baby. It's epic in scale (and budget), features widescreen vistas of China to put the original and its sequel to shame, and Jaden makes like poppa bear every time he gets a chance - the wisecracking quips, the aw-shucks demeanor, the keeping-it-real-for-the-Ipod-kids attitude.

What's lacking is something groundshakingly fresh to this version of the tale of the new boy gets bullied, learns karate, er, kung fu from wise old mentor, befriends old mentor, beats down bullies, wins girl and makes momma proud.

Granted, everyone gives it their earnest best shot. Jackie Chan, while not on par with Pat Morita's Mr. Miyagi, is suitable and finally gets to show off his dramatic chops. Jaden Smith is precocious and charming - although we could have done without the preteen shirtless sequence. And Taraji P. Henson from Benjamin Button delivers some sass as the new kid's mom.

But seriously, Jackie Chan beating up 12-year-olds? Not that the Cobra Kai in the original were that much older, but somehow, and I know this will sound weird, the original had a real danger and urgency to it. It wasn't as post-millenium cool or expensive-looking, but it was less self-conscious, and had a simple, straightforward, kitschy fun appeal.

You'll still root for the kid here, and the filmmakers have taken time and effort to make a first-class production. But I'd rather have watched a new print of the original (and while I love AC/DC and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, their legitimately great tunes can't match the cheesewhiz brilliance of Joe Esposito's "You're the Best"). If you have small kids, then I guess they deserve their Karate Kid, too. Just make sure that when they hit junior high, they download the original...

That's what I thought...but how about you? Seen it and liked it? Liked it more than the original..for reals? Or diametrically opposed to all of these '80s remakes? Let know below!

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Next Article by Chuck Walton

Day 36: 'The A-Team'

Day 36: 'The A-Team'