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Thursday, June 17, 2010 10:38 pm

Welcome the new Kid on the block

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Some films are so a part of the time in which they were made it’s hard to imagine them taking place during any other period. The Karate Kid is a product of the 1980s through and through, what with its dated clothing, awkward pop soundtrack and less-than-subtle message. Yet what made the movie work was the chemistry between its two leads, Ralph Macchio as the eager student of karate and Pat Morita as the wise sage who teaches his pupil more than just how to wax on and wax off but how to live life. You could feel a genuine bond of respect and love between the two, which helped us forgive the film’s hackneyed premise.

In rebooting Kid for a new generation, director Harald Zwart wisely follows the same path by delivering not only an inspiring underdog story and impressive martial arts sequences but also a touching tale of loyalty, courage and love. Jayden Smith is the student this time around, a Detroit native shipped to China because his mother has been transferred, and Jackie Chan is the teacher, a quicksilver piece of damaged goods looking for something to live for.

At 2:20, the film is far too long, especially for younger viewers, but its emotional pull is such that it rewards our patience. Smith, like his father Will, is a natural on screen as he radiates charm and a maturity beyond his years, while Chan shows that he’s more than just a one-kick pony. He’s got acting chops he’s not been allowed to show through the years but here he’s given the chance to move as well as still thrill us. He doesn’t disappoint and while this Kid gives us nothing new narratively, it’s story is genuinely moving and inspiring, a rare commodity in this lackluster summer movie season.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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