Wednesday 16 Apr

Dustin Prinz - Eleven

Few musicians take the time to master their instrument in the way that Oklahoma City singer-songwriter Dustin Prinz has; he’s a guitar virtuoso in every sense of the word, and Eleven gives him the chance to show just how far he can push that skill.
04/15/2014 | Comments 0

Horse Thief – Fear in Bliss

Listening to Horse Thief’s previous release — the haphazardly melodramatic Grow Deep, Grow Wild — felt like a chore. Whatever potential the Oklahoma City folk-pop act demonstrated on the EP was obscured behind a formulaic, contrived and ultimately hollow cloud. But it at least offered a glimmer of promise for a band consisting of, frankly, five pretty talented dudes. Critics saw it; the band’s management saw it; its current label, Bella Union, saw it; and its increasingly fervid fan base saw it.
04/08/2014 | Comments 0

Colourmusic — May You Marry Rich

There’s always a sense of danger when debuting songs in a live setting and playing them well. Without having heard the studio versions, expectations are set according to the live incarnations. But capturing the breadth of free-flowing atmosphere and sheer volume on a disc, vinyl or digital file isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially for a band as vociferous as Colourmusic.
04/01/2014 | Comments 0

Em and the MotherSuperiors — Churches into Theaters

As titles go, Churches into Theaters is an apt descriptor for the debut album from Oklahoma City rockers Em and the MotherSuperiors. It’s a reverential record, one that shares the gospel of classic rock, blues and soul but embraces the need to refashion it for modern times, channeling The Dead Weather, Grace Potter and Cage the Elephant along the way.
03/25/2014 | Comments 0

Rachel Brashear — Revolution

Rachel Brashear’s second EP, Revolution, starts with a kick to the shins.
03/18/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Music · Music · Jackie Chan almost kicks new life...

Jackie Chan almost kicks new life into the 1980s remake 'The Karate Kid'

Phil Bacharach June 10th, 2010

There's no escaping the 1980s. Multiplexes recently saw a reboot of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and soon will make room for a theatrical version of TV's "The A-Team." Even massive oil spills and Gary Coleman are back in the news. So perhaps a reworking of "The Karate Kid," that beloved underdog-makes-good yarn from 1984, was only inevitable.

Whether the world needed a new "Karate Kid," however, is debatable. The original, where Ralph Macchio's bullied teen was taken under the wing of a martial-arts sensei played by Pat Morita, was agreeably schmaltzy. Its patchwork of clichés — teen outcast, a wise mentor, the big match — proved as irresistible as it was shameless.

The new one remains faithful to plot basics while seeking to add a bit of oomph. Our hero this time around is 12-year-old Dre Parker, portrayed by Jaden Smith ("The Pursuit of Happyness") the genetically fortunate offspring of producers Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. Morita's Mr. Miyagi is now supplanted by Jackie Chan ("The Spy Next Door").

While the early "Kid" offered the culture shock of a New Jersey kid in bleached-blonde California, this version is more globally ambitious, making Dre a new arrival in Beijing, where his single mom (Taraji P. Henson, "Date Night") has a new job. China is an eventful place. Dre is barely off the plane before he is smitten by a cute girl (Wenwen Han) and terrorized by thugs led by Cheng (Zhenwei Wang). Luckily for Dre, the maintenance man of his apartment complex, Mr. Han (Chan), agrees to school the boy in kung fu.

Clocking in at nearly two-and-a-half hours, "The Karate Kid" takes its time telling a story so utterly predictable. Director Harald Zwart ("The Pink Panther 2") reveals flashes of stylistic flair, but the pace is by turns leisurely and leaden. More disappointing is how the picture misses opportunities of its own making. "Karate Kid" takes a black preteen from Detroit, places him in China, and then fails to do anything interesting with the premise. Dre attends a new school where the Chinese teachers and students happily speak English. We never enter a classroom; the only interaction we see is in the cafeteria for the obligatory bully-trips-hero incident.

Such wasted potential for drama is among several ways in which this "Karate Kid" falls short of its predecessor. The '84 flick was corny, certainly, but its grounding in a semblance of reality ratcheted up the stakes for our hero. You don't sense that here. And while the film's fight scenes are compelling, their reliance on sound-effects overkill comes across as odd when we're watching Chan smack down a posse of kiddos.

What saves "The Karate Kid" from mediocrity is the likability of its cast. Henson is terrific, while Smith proves charm can be inherited. Then there is Chan. Sporting a scraggly goatee and his customary charisma, he injects some much-needed life into an otherwise bland enterprise. He is easily the best part of the movie. —Phil Bacharach

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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