The Karate Kid (2010)
Was this ever a refreshing revelation. This transplanted Karate Kid remake takes the basic elements of the seminal 1980s underdog sports film and makes a rousing, satisfying, and surprisingly emotional experience. It sounds like sacrilege to take on a classic and fill it with an aged Jackie Chan and Will Smith’s progeny, but by God it works. It all works. It’s clear that pint-sized Jaden Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness) is a chip off the old block; he’s got a natural charm and feels like he can turn it on at will. His acting doesn’t come across as forced, and the kid can even tackle the heavier dramatic stuff with shocking ease. The other benefit to Smith is that he LOOKS like a true 12-year-old kid, gangly and scrambling for protection and self-confidence. Ralph Machio was in his early 20s when he was waxing on, waxing off. Smith and Chan have a bristling chemistry, and I ended up eating my words when Chan channeled a succession of teary emotions. The teacher/student dynamic leads to enough satisfying moments to feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth. The same lessons of discipline get a fresh coat of paint. There’s no real reason that a Karate Kid remake needed to be made (it feels like China funded it as an unashamed tourist commercial) especially since there were three sequels of varying quality. While a little long with an overextended kung-fu tournament, Karate Kid is a family film that won’t melt your brain.
Nate’s Grade: B