Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Karate Kid Redux

What a wonderful two hours we spent watching Will Smith's kid hang out with Jackie Chan. Yes, it's a remake, but this one is at least as good as Mr. Miyage and “wax on – wax off”.  This time it's "jacket on - jacket off," but the message of discipline and training and respect is still the same.  Michael Wilbon may think that it's "too young" for him, but I think he's wrong.

Jackie Chan always does his own stunts, and if you didn't believe it before, just watch him walk up the steps in this film.  Think Walter Brennan in To Have and Have Not or Gunsmoke's Chester; the hitch in the step that's been earned by a lifetime of enjoyable hard work.  There's jauntiness tempered with age and experiences, and a rueful acceptance of the fact that some parts wake up faster than others now.  In an understated way, he's telling us that we can watch the movie we saw as kids, and that we can enjoy it every bit as much as we did in 1984, albeit from a different perspective.  He certainly seems to be having a very good time.

Jaden Smith cannot weigh 80 pounds soaking wet, and yes, I'm sure he got a leg up in the business by having connected parents, but none of that matters once you watch him training.  He does his own stunts and he's every bit as aggravated as any other 12 year old if an interviewer doubts him.  His little boy's frame has definition, and his form doing push-ups (something on which I have definite opinions) is perfect.  Sparring with Jackie Chan...... the kid's peaked and he's not even a teenager.  He's completely believable as a son, a friend, a student and an athlete.  

There's a car in this version, and a girlfriend, and a bad teacher and a competition and the fact that it's all predictable only adds to its charm.  It's big on values - real values like hang up your jacket, apologize if you make a mistake, don't be afraid to ask for what you want and to work hard if you want to succeed - and some might find it heavy-handed.  But asking the 5 and 7 year olds outside the theatre what they learned from it, Amster and TBG heard respect your mother and work hard and focus.  There are worse ways to leave a movie.