You could have called this “Fist of the East,” or “Test of Fortitude” and it would have grossed obscene amounts of money at the box-office, regardless. It’s a movie that is so meticulously built to appeal to audiences and tickle every emotion possible, that it’s so much more a marketing gimmick than it is an actual movie. Calling it “Karate Kid” is just the icing on the cake. Eighties exploitation is huge. There are currently dozens of overgrown men on the cusp of forty mourning the days of Rocky Balboa, and cassette tapes, still bawling about how the eighties were so much better that calling it “Karate Kid” was a bonafide ticket to box office gold. Plus Jaden Smith is Will Smith’s son, and Will Smith always equals big bucks.
“Karate Kid” is a film that, in spite of not being much of a masterpiece, still was an eighties sensation. The film is geared for the modern audiences, it’s a ticket to stardom for Jaden Smith, it’s broadly written to fit every single sensibility, and even its soundtrack is tailored to garner emotions from the audience in an almost Pavlovian order. “Say what you Need to Say” means that Dre is sad and is not telling his mom he’s sad. Frown, audience. “Higher Ground” means Dre is reaching another level of his youth, thus we should root for him. This is where you smile, audience. Once they enter in to Beijing, you can hear traditional Asian music. This means Dre is not in Kansas anymore. Feel alienated, audience. Jackie Chan is still something of a pop culture icon who can tap in to the youth culture, thus his casting as the new Miyagi is a no-brainer. The man’s immigration to American cinema turned him from a legend in to a party clown, so “Karate Kid” took him one step further.
Knowing Chan’s propensity for using his martial arts skills to avoid hitting his opponents as opposed to pummeling them in to a coma, his tactics as Han, who uses his abilities to fend off Dre’s violent bullies rather than beat the piss out of them, is just what the PG grading is in need of. In the original film (that’s if you consider this a remake, because it isn’t), Miyagi took great lengths to defend Daniel, even beating a group of his tormentors during Halloween party. In that scene you could almost hear the bones breaking and noses cracking from Miyagi’s vicious assaults. Here Han has to step lively and treat the bullies with delicacy and grace, because while they are violent, psychopathic juveniles, they are just kids, after all. And finally the move from an Italian teen getting his butt kicked by blond upper classmen is not kosher. Why on Earth would an audience go to the movies to watch Jaden Smith being beaten to death by a bunch of white boys? That has “headline” written all over it.
So the plot is then altered for our new Daniel–now named Dre–to move to Beijing because it’s much less cringe inducing if a group of Asian preteens are beating up an African American preteen. I’m assuming. “Karate Kid” is failure not because it’s a remake (because it isn’t), but because it exploits a well known name in order to push an overwrought kids film that will not impress anyone over the age of twelve. It’s just another carbon copy of “Karate Kid” like “Sidekicks” and “3 Ninjas” were. I wanted to love it, but I couldn’t help but see through its ruse, in the end. Nostalgia geeks hoping to relive their days of ALF and Cyndi Lauper would do best to look elsewhere for their fix of memories as “Karate Kid” is nothing than a brand name exploitative overlong family film with some occasional fight scenes meant for the modern crowds and not for anyone alive during the eighties. Homages are brief and scant, none of the dialogue or back story is in tact, and this is mainly nothing but a marketing scheme for Jaden Smith to continue his rise to fame by winning the hearts of preteen boys everywhere.