Summer Blockbuster Preview: The Karate Kid

Our look at the big films of the summer arrives at one it's hard to rustle up enthusiasm for: it's the remake of The Karate Kid...

What is it?

It’s a remake of the 1984 classic original, which hasn’t got it off to the best of starts with some. The original, which starred Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio, is still a much-loved movie, one that spawned three sequels. The new take on the film follows 12-year-old Dre Parker, who has to move to China when his mother gets a new job there.

You know the drill from this bit. Dre ends up being targeted by the class bully, and seemingly has no way of fighting back. In steps Mr Han The Maintenance Man (for that is what he is called), who teaches him, er, kung-fu, which then all builds up to Dre’s ultimate face-off against the aforementioned school bully.

You can probably tell from that that we’re not talking a shot-for-shot remake by any measure here, rather a transplanting of the core basics of the original film into an attempt to kick-start a brand new Karate Kid franchise. That, inevitably, has made this already one of the least popular remake ideas of recent times. Whether there’s any sign of “wax on, wax off” this time around remains to be seen too.

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All said, though, Sony is hunting for a new franchise here, and as such, all signs are that it’s more interested in looking forward than building strong ties with the earlier films.

Who’s Behind It?

The film is being directed by Harold Zwart, whose CV has the really enjoyable One Night At McCools on it (we need to rewatch that film again soon). Zwart’s most recent movie doesn’t exactly get you pumped up for The Karate Kid, given that he helmed The Pink Panther 2. Perhaps you could generously suggest that we all have to pay the bills (and that’s coming from a massive fan of Steve Martin).

In front of the camera, Ralph Macchio has morphed into Jaden (son of Will) Smith, and he’s going to be schooled by Jackie Chan as Mr Han The Maintenance Man. The rest of the cast is rounded out by thus-far unknown actors.

Promisingly, James Horner has done the score for the film.

Why Should You See It?

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Eeek, hoped you wouldn’t ask that.

For of all the films we’ve been covering in our summer blockbuster previews, The Karate Kid is the hardest one to really build a compelling case for. Even Sex And The City 2, which you might have gathered we’re not especially looking forward to, has a clear and understandable audience (and there are a couple of people around here who are keen to see it, to be fair).

The Karate Kid? It’s hard to raise too much enthusiasm for it. Granted, there’s inevitably a little bit of ‘why are they remaking that?’ about it, and also it seems to be running a bit roughshod over the original too. Technically, for instance, shouldn’t this be called The Kung-Fu Kid? Or are we missing something?

However, to be circumspect about this, this new version of The Karate Kid isn’t aimed at those who enjoyed the original, that much appears to be clear. It’s being very much positioned as a family audience, aiming at people who weren’t even born when Mr Miyagi first started dispelling his very special sort of wisdom. Think of it as a family movie first and remake second.

Then there’s the Jackie Chan factor. We can’t sit here and defend some of the American movies that Jackie Chan has opted to make, and in his defence, very often Chan doesn’t even try to (quite the contrary, in some cases). Rush Hour 3, for instance, remains a crash course in making your eyes bleed. But you have to give the guy this: he tries. He rarely phones in his performance, and even when all around him is turning to hokum, he’s still working away.

In the case of The Karate Kid, that may not be necessary. We’ve a sneaking suspicion that Zwart and co will deliver a perfectly competent retread of the original film, just not one that will endear itself to longer term fans of the franchise. We’d also not bet against Sony scoring itself a solid hit here, and thus bringing everyone back together in two years’ time for a sequel.

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That said, we’d be lying if we said we could rustle up too much enthusiasm for the brand new Karate Kid, and the trailers that Sony has released to date have done little to arrest that.

US release date: 11th JuneUK release date: 16th July