There is a special place in the seventh circle of hell for Bargain Mondays at the Stratford Picturehouse during school holidays. Never is this more obvious that when seeing a kiddie flick like “The Karate Kid” at an early evening showing. It’s cheap, but there is a price to pay.
I have a special sanity trick I will share with you. I withdraw deeply into my being, getting so physically relaxed that I don’t notice if my ear is screamed in or my hair is pulled – yes, honest, it was. Nothing annoys me in this state. Things are observed, but nothing matters but the picture on the screen.
Being not at all bothered by where I sit, huge numbers of screaming kiddies provoke me to the front row, the better to block out the existence of the fertile masses behind and around me. Of all the movies to be absorbed into, this one truly sparkles.
The casting of the two stars is pure genius. Jackie Chan is simply wonderful as Mr Han, the maintenance man who turns out to be the best kung fu trainer in the whole world. And Jaden Smith as Dre Parker is just an incredible star in the making. He has his father’s easy presence and looks like Will Smith. But there is a fire here that burns very brightly. This kid worked himself hard for this movie, and it shows.
The physical strength of Jaden and the hard stainless steel at his core pulls the film to a whole new level. I loved the old “Karate Kid” franchise and was prepared to hate this. But I absolutely adored it. The universal themes pull you in and Jaden doesn’t miss a heartbeat as he pulls your strings and draws you in. The kid is just barely 12-years-old and he is unbelievably good.
Now I am a huge Jackie Chan fan. He’s my age and he’s a credible action hero, in great shape and compelling. He gave an interview about this movie saying that Jaden had such a great focus and concentration that it blew him away. I was a little annoyed because I thought his own kids would be upset by how close he feels to Jaden. But I now feel that Jaden worked for that respect with a maturity way beyond his years and he earned the great feelings so many have about him.
Child stars tend to irritate and delight in equal measures. Trust me, Jaden is different. The physical and mental effort he puts into every scene makes you forget all the previous Karate Kid movies. This one is magic.
There are things that may irritate, here. The plot is about a move from Detroit to Beijing and the Chinese authorities have not missed a single trick in putting on a showcase for tourism.
Harald Zwart directs in a workman-like manner. Jackie and Jaden direct themselves, so there is not too much for him to do. Christopher Murphey and Robert Mark Kamen share screenplay credits and Tamaji P Henson is good as Jaden’s widowed mother, who moves from depressed Detroit to prosperous Beijing as Jaden’s mother and works for a car company.
There is some neat stuff here on loss, broken families and making a new place in the world. The audience laughed a lot and applauded as the end credits rolled. That doesn’t happen every day.
It will make you feel good and you will leave feeling lifted. And this, after all, is the main task of a movie. Although Jaden’s focus – and I am fiercely motivated – may terrify you. It’s a very nifty soundtrack too and that will also stay with you, as a plus.