x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

The Karate Kid: a new lick of paint but no match for the original

With the film being aimed at a tween audience, everything has been made smaller rather than bigger.

Hollywood continues to cash in on 1980s nostalgia with this remake of the cult 1984 teenage martial arts movie. The original film spawned two sequels as well as an attempt to reboot the franchise when the producers came up with the idea of making the Karate Kid a girl. None of them were good. This time the big idea is to move the action away from America and take it to China where, in a piece of genius casting, the old wise karate teacher once played by Pat Morita has been given a new lick of paint by the martial arts legend Jackie Chan. Chan's Mr Han is far less serious than Morita's Mr Miyagi and while this works, the remake fails to have the impact or style of the original, mainly because of the decision to cast Will Smith's son Jaden Smith as the loose cannon Dre Parker, who learns to control his temper through martial arts. It's no fault of Smith's that he's just too young to be acting up as much as he does about being forced to move from Detroit to Beijing because his mother has a new job, or that he'd be hated by a gang of local youths for chatting to a girl. His age also means that his elderly mentor doesn't need to give him any big life lessons through the witty anecdotes that were one of the highlights of the original film. The training regime that saw Machio forced to do seemingly menial housework such as painting fences and cleaning cars is replaced by a rather more mundane jacket regime, and this moment encapsulates all that is wrong with this reboot: with the film being aimed at a tween audience, everything has been made smaller rather than bigger. If this brings the question: "Why make a reboot?", the stellar US first weekend box office provided more than 50 million answers to the question.