#TalkNerdyToMeLover’s Awesome Applesauce: Charles Quevedo
In 1984, I had gone to the theater to watch the original “The Karate Kid” movie. It starred Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. It was about a 16 year-old New Jersey boy, “Daniel Laruso”, who moved to California with his mother and found himself bullied by a group of local martial arts students. With the help of his apartment building’s handyman, “Mr. Miyagi”, the boy learned martial arts and self-respect. I fell in love with this movie immediately. When it came out on VHS video (a big deal in the 80’s), I must’ve played that movie hundreds of times until the film inside the tape worn out. This movie is considered a beloved “classic”.
When I first heard many months ago that they were developing a remake of “The Karate Kid”, I actually cringed at the thought that they might ruin one of my favorite movies. I had no intentions of going to see this new version … until my 6 year-old nephew came to visit me and talked me into taking him. When we arrived at the movie theater, the place was totally packed, almost no seats available. We had to sit right in front of the screen (where I was sure my neck was gonna hurt like hell at the end from looking straight up for the next 2 hours). All around me, there was a chatter of excitement from pre-teens, teenagers, and their parents. Even my little nephew was rockin’ in his seat with excitement for this one. As for me, I was chillin’ in my seat, munchin’ on popcorn waiting for it to start so that I could get the whole thing over with. I was expecting to hate this movie no matter what. The lights turned down low and everybody got quiet.
From the beginning of “The Karate Kid”, we see scrawny 12 year-old “Dre Parker” (played by actor, Jaden Smith) and his widowed mother, “Sherry” (played by actress, Taraji P. Henson), preparing to move from Detroit to China. As Dre sits in his plane seat, his mother is studying very hard the Chinese language (for her new job) and urges Dre to do the same. When they land in Beijing, they’re greeted at the airport by one of her company’s employees and are taken to the apartment building where they will be living. When his mother asks Dre to look for the building’s maintainence man (handyman), “Mr. Han” (played by actor, Jackie Chan), to have him fix the shower. When he finds Mr. Han, Dre is pretty much ignored by him as he sits and eats his noodles. Dre walks to a nearby park where he plays a game of basketball and ping pong with the Chinese locals. “Meiying” (played by actress, Wenwen Han), a young pretty girl playing the violin, catches Dre’s eye. He sparks up a conversation with her … and even performs a flirtatious hip-hop dance for her. The jealous “Cheng” (played by actor, Zhenwei Wang) sees Dre trying to impress the girl he likes and interrupts them, arguing with Meiying right there in the park. When Dre tries to intervene, he is greeted with a few punches and kicks. Dre tries to fight back, using some “Karate” moves he learned somewhere, but he is severely beaten by Cheng’s ruthless “Kung Fu”.
Throughout the movie, Dre is shown having a difficult time adjusting to his new environment and the Chinese language (which is a huge obstacle for him). But with the help and friendship of Meiying, he begins to feel more at home and a little romance soon develops between them.
Dre tries his best to avoid Cheng and his little gang of martial arts hoodlums. When they chase Dre through the streets of Beijing, it’s one of the most exciting scenes in the movie. When they corner Dre and severely beat him once again, he is saved by Mr. Han who defeats the bullies without really even throwing a punch. To make peace, both Mr. Han and Dre visit the Kung Fu academy where Cheng trains at. They are greeted with hatred by “Master Li” (played by actor, Rongguang Yu), Cheng’s sinister instructor. Mr. Han makes a deal with Master Li for his students to leave Dre alone so that he can train him for the upcoming tournament where the youngsters will meet in battle.
Dre’s Kung Fu training starts off slow, beginning with him repeatedly taking off and hanging his jacket (just think “wax on, wax off” from the original version). When the training gets more intense, Dre’s fighting skills and confidence grows. The final showdown between Dre and Cheng is absolutely worth sitting through the movie’s entire 2 hours and 20 minutes of time.
The competition scene is a lot MORE fast-paced, brutal and violent than in the original version. No punches are pulled at all. I consider this a big plus. This kept me on the edge of my seat and held my interest. I was really surprised by the fight scenes, my jaw just dropping wide open at the intensity (I didn’t expect to see spinning aeriel kicks coming from 12 year-old kids). And for you hardcore lovers of the original version, DON’T expect that classic “crane” kick at the end. There’s a surprise kick that’s even more dazzling than the original, one that will leave you saying, “WTF?!” (not saying any more than that … don’t wanna ruin the surprise for those who haven’t seen the movie yet).
When I went to see this movie, I knew from the start that Jaden’s parents, Will & Jada Smith, executive produced this film. The fact that the Smiths used their Hollywood clout to get their son the lead role didn’t bother me. Jaden performed well enough for his first movie.
The thing that shocked the hell out of me was Jackie Chan’s dramatic performance. In Chan’s other movies, we usually see him performing wild crazy stunts and choreographed fight scenes. When he’s NOT doing that, he’s performing some kind of Charlie Chaplin slapstick routine for some laughs. Anything that keeps him from talking in long sentences. In “The Karate Kid”, there’s a scene where the Mr. Han character drunkenly smashes up a car with a sledge hammer after he just finished repairing it. As Mr. Han sits in the newly demolished vehicle, Dre picks up an old newspaper clipping (from under a layer of broken shards of glass) from the car’s hood. In the newspaper clipping, Dre sees a photo of the same car (looking exactly the way Mr. Han had smashed it up) and smaller photos of his wife and 10 year-old son underneath it. Mr. Han explains to Dre that his wife and son died the night he was driving home with them. Dre realizes that it’s the anniversary of Mr. Han’s loved ones’ deaths. During this scene, this is the most dramatic I’ve seen Chan get (he even cries in this scene). It’s a very touching moment. I was very impressed by Chan’s acting abilities here and believe he should be given more roles like that in the future.
Before this move came out, there was a lot of controversey about the title, “The Karate Kid”, being used when the characters are actually using Kung Fu skills. I personally didn’t really care about this fact, but there were many that believed the movie should’ve been called, “The Kung Fu Kid”, instead. I understand that Sony’s Columbia Pictures probably wanted to bring in viewers by giving the movie a title everybody was familiar with and nostalgic about. The strategy is called, “marketing”. There’s nothing like giving a movie a title nobody thinks it should have, get people pissed off about it, and then have them talk about it for months before it even comes out. Simply brilliant!
THE KARATE KID (2010) is definitely NOT the 1984 version (DON’T expect any bonsai trees or catching flies with chop sticks). You can clearly see the basic storyline and some elements borrowed from the original, but it’s a different movie (thanks to the eclectic mixture of Chinese culture and hip-hop/rock music). It has a different soul to it, but it’s equally good. It does lack the touching father/son-type relationship that developed between Mr. Miyagi and Daniel Laruso in the original, but overall, this version is STILL worth the price of admission and the time to see it. Totally loved it!
How good is this movie? Well, the audience that I watched the movie with, stood up and applauded at the end! There were even little kids that were so hyped up afterwards, they were pulling “Karate Kid” moves on each other in the lobby and restrooms. That’s when you know a movie is that good.
I give The Karate Kid a 9 out of 10 rating!
Follow Charles on Twitter: @FuglyCharlie