Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
FEAR, Anxiety and Worry… What does the Bible say? Answer
|Featuring:||Jaden Smith (Dre Parker), Jackie Chan (Mr. Han), Taraji P. Henson (Mom), Tess Liu (History Teacher), Harry Van Gorkum (Music Teacher—uncredited)|
|Director:||Harald Zwart—“The Pink Panther 2” (2009), “Agent Cody Banks” (2003)|
|Producer:||Columbia Pictures, China Film Group, Jerry Weintraub Productions, Overbrook Entertainment, Susan Ekins, Sanping Han, James Lassiter, Jada Pinkett Smith, Han San Ping, Will Smith, Solon So, Ken Stovitz, Jerry Weintraub, Dany Wolf|
|Distributor:||Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures|
Remake of “The Karate Kid” (1984)
School’s out and summer brings us to what movie goers deem: Blockbuster Summer. Many films have already gotten us off the ground including a couple of terrific sequels and re-makes like Shrek 3 and “Robin Hood.” The Karate Kid comes close at their heels, but making comparisons to the 1984 Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita classic may blind you to the virtues of the new, extremely pleasing version of the archetypal tale of mentor and protégé, emotionally scared man and bullied boy story, in this 2010 version played by Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith.
Director Harold Zwart and Producer Will Smith coupled with writer Christopher Murphy have given us not just a sequel but a new story based on the familiar theme. 2010’s Karate Kid has the excitement, humor, warmth, and themes of friendship, maturity, and overcoming adversity, I was relieved to find, left intact from the original. Better still, there’s no sense that any of it has been cheapened or simplified for the sake of appealing to a mass audience.
12 year old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith), leaves Detroit for China a few years after the death of his father. His Mom, Sherry (Taraji P. Henson) who works for a car manufacturing company, has been transferred and wants to make a new life for them. She tries hard to inspire Dre with how exciting living in a new country will be and how much the experience will teach them. But from the very beginning Dre becomes more and more aware of just how much he does not fit into his new surroundings. Not just blending with a new home and a new school, but the language and deeply embedded customs. Although most people are very helpful and he makes a new friend in his apartment building, there are other kids and even grown ups who are not so obliging.
This is where the story line is similar to the original as Dre meets a shy girl named Mei Ying (Wenwen Han) with a sweet smile and who plays violin that Dre wants so much to impress. Dre also has to find a way to defend himself from Cheng (Zhenwei Wang) and his band of Kung Fu fisted bullies who don’t like him, simply because he is different. The bullies chase him down relentlessly, until one day after school Dre is trapped in an alley unable to defend himself against their Kung Fu skills, and the quiet loner of a maintenance man from Dre’s apartment building, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), appears and defends him using his own fantastic Kung Fu skills. At this point, Dre asks for Mr. Han’s help to defend himself against the bullies who are making his life miserable.
Han, although hesitant, decides to help Dre, but not in the way Dre had expected. Han first has to instill a sense of control, direction and honor within Dre before he can teach him the actual skills of true Kung Fu. The story finally comes full circle as we watch Dre be molded from a skinny, wimpy kid into a confident, respectful and well toned athlete. Dre learns that Kung Fu is a way of life, not just a martial art. That being still and doing nothing are two very different things. There is a time to act and a time to step away. He learns it is not enough just to know the moves and beat an adversary, one must know it is not a matter of win or lose, it is to live respectfully, control oneself and not others, and to treat others with the honor and decency you would expect back from them.
“The Karate Kid” is rated PG for realistic depictions of bullying, martial arts action which translates into violence and some mild language that are: a couple references to kicking a**, and the phrase ‘damn it.’ There is a running joke about some foods giving you ‘gas’ also and, of course, kids will love that. There is no sex at all. The two sweethearts of this film are after all 12 years old, but love’s first kiss is depicted as Dre and Mei Ying innocently kiss behind a screen at the SheShe Festival.
The violence factor here is strong, as this is a film based around the act of martial arts. The Red Dragons, a Kung Fu group lead by the evil Master Li (Rongguang Yu), are shown kicking, crunching, punching, and breaking the bones of their victims. Almost every martial art sequence in this film is very realistic, no doubt to show that martial arts are serious business and must be respected, but on that note, parents may want to consider the violence meter before taking young kids below the age of 10 to this film. The one scene where Mr. Han defends Dre from the bullies is done in a none abusive, almost comical way, to prove the point that martial arts can be used to defend without going for the kill. Respect of your assailant at all times. Never lose focus and control is the true essence of Kung Fu.
The finale where Dre is pitted against his adversary, Cheng, is very brutal at points and I felt it unrealistic for Sherry Parker, Dre’s Mom, NOT to stop the whole thing. What Mom would sit in the bleachers at an event and watch her 12 year old son’s leg be near broke, his face punched in and a Doctor say he must not continue on, and NOT say “enough”? Dre wins in the end, as we all know from the original film, but as this Karate Kid is more realistic in tone, I felt the way some of the characters interacted a little off the mark.
The spiritual aspect of this film, obviously is not Christian. It is based around the Chi and the belief that we all have a power from within. This includes a combination of of Confucianism and Taoism and of Buddhism, all practiced in China. Mr Han and Dre go on many journeys during his training. To the Great Wall, The Forbidden City, mystic Temples and to Mr Han’s childhood training place, the Great Well where a fountain is housed with water believed if drank, will make it so nothing can defeat you. Mr. Han teaches Dre that Kung Fu lives in how we treat others. Kung Fu is everything in life, and in how we do everything.
The values embraced within the film’s theme are not bad ones, they for the most part are in line with the principles we as Christians strive to teach our children, values and morals even Jesus teaches us, like love they neighbor, respect those in authority, honor your parents, truth in friendships, personal integrity, but it must be said that the spiritual aspect of this film is definitely Eastern in nature. If that is a concern to parents taking their families to see The Karate Kid, please be sure to sit down with them before you attend this movie, and make sure they know and can discern the difference between Eastern mysticism and Christianity.
Jackie Chan delivers one of his best performances ever as he not just reprises the role of mentor and father figure, originally played by Pat Morita, but brings it to a new level of sensibility. “The Karate Kid” (2010) is a realistic often physically brutal tale of what friendships, respect, courage and determination can accomplish. Although a more apt title would be “The Kung Fu Kid,” as the real martial art used in this story was not Karate, I commend the writers and director along with the beautifully talented Jaden Smith for making an old story new again while keeping the lessons and final moral of the original story.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Minor
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.