Greetings TVgasm patrons! P-Baby Walker here, proud to be the newest addition to the Moviegasm staff. What brings me and my dementia here you ask? An act of desperation to save the Baby Walker marriage. Truth is, my husband threatened to lock me in the attic and cut off my Diet Pepsi supply if I didn’t find an alternative outlet for my constant stream of cantankerous opinions. Nevertheless, I’m extremely excited to be here and will get right to the movie review, as I hope we will have plenty of time to get properly acquainted in the future.
For years, Hollywood has been banking on the appeal of sports movies featuring kids, resulting in masterpieces such as Little Giants, The Mighty Ducks, and everyone’s favorite stinkfest Rookie of the Year. The main character is always a misfit pining for a dewy faced adolescent piece of ass, and they always travel with a fat friend sidekick. Today I will be tackling the latest serving of young athletic fare which also serves as the latest case of Hollywood nepotism, The Karate Kid.
Starring Fresh Prince offspring Jaden Smith as Dre Parker the titular character, and Rush Hour alum Jackie Chan filling Mr. Miyagi’s immeasurable shoes, I was admittedly torn after viewing the trailer by feelings of nostalgic enchantment and shame that I found myself thinking that not only did this look pretty good but I’d probably see it in the theater. My mom was unusually thrilled when I told her of my evening plans to take in The Karate Kid during our daily phone call, though I suspect her excitement stems from the fact that she is indeed Chinese and the movie featured no less than 4,621 members of her extended family.
The general plot is your typical fish out of water scenario, with Dre and his mom, the always adorable Taraji P. Henson, forced to uproot their life in Detroit and haul ass to China due to work obligations. Personally, P-Baby would have thought a move like that as a kid would have kicked ass, with enough Game Boy and Sanrio to drive a small child to a Keroppi-induced catatonic state. Instead, we uprooted and moved to West Chester, home to everyone’s favorite manic shopping channel, QVC. Thanks, parents.
Approximately five minutes after touching down in China, Dre’s mom sends him out the door to wander around the streets of a foreign, Communist country in order to locate the building maintenance man so he can fix the hot water in their new apartment. As suspected, he promptly gets his ass kicked Street Fighter style on the basketball court by Cheng, leader of the local school gang. In Dre’s defense, drop Cheng onto the streets of Detroit and upon his first attempted flying side kick, that fool is getting shot with a sideways tilted Glock. Another point of concern is the parenting style of Mrs. Parker. Apparently unaware of child slavery rings, concubines, or the plausible notion that there are psychopaths in China, she’s perfectly comfortable sending her twelve year old non-Chinese speaking child out to fend for himself. Yet she loses her fucking mind when he doesn’t hang his jacket up. Priorities, Mrs. Parker, it’s all about priorities.
Dre quickly meets and falls for classmate Mei Ying, played by a charming Wen Wen Han. Since the rule is every Asian child must be good at math, karate, and/or a stringed instrument, Mei Ying is an extremely talented violin player feeling the pressure from her family to gain acceptance to the prestigious Beijing Academy of Music. Their relationship blossoms to the dismay of Cheng and friends, who are hell-bent on keeping them apart while simultaneously beating the living shit out of Dre. Conveniently, Cheng and his group of cronies are all Kung Fu prodigies moonlighting as students during the day. I wish I could be a prodigy at something bad ass like Kung Fu. It’d be much more useful than my Tetris skills in protecting me from getting thrown in a windowless van and being held captive in a well. I do have abnormally strong thumbs, however, perfect for holding sandwiches and cans of Diet Pepsi.
During a severely harsh beating by Cheng and co, Mr. Han comes to Dre’s rescue and it quickly becomes evident that Mr. Han is a Kung Fu master in his own right. Mr. Han decides to initiate a truce with Cheng and the gang by taking Dre to see Master Li, Cheng’s Kung Fu teacher. Unfortunately for Mr. Han, Master Li believes in the no mercy mantra and decides to take it upon himself to obliterate the 12-year old Dre. After forcing Mr. Han into a promise of Dre’s participation in an upcoming Kung Fu tournament, Master Li temporarily calls off Cheng’s gang to allow Dre to train properly. I’ve heard of sworn enemies and life long nemeses and even your typical ongoing family feud, but one thing I just could not comprehend was why a middle-aged, seemingly successful grown adult would decide that his next goal in life was to destroy a twelve-year old. I struggle with minor guilt pangs after sneering at kids who’ve destroyed my Us Weekly in a water gun fight at the community pool, yet Master Li sees nothing inappropriate about his life duties revolving around annihilating children. When he’s not busy destroying the lives of kids he just met, Master Li also enjoys setting puppies on fire, poking babies in the eye, and wheelchair tipping at the local Chinese market.
Mr. Han commences training with Dre, using a technique that finds Dre spending hours taking his jacket off and on, picking it up off the ground and hanging it on a hook. After this particular activity goes on for days, Dre refuses to continue, inciting Mr. Han to “attack” him, subsequently showing Dre’s natural defensive techniques coming from the repetitive jacket training. I wonder if the hours spent raising E.L. Fudge cookies, placing into mouth, biting, and chewing will ever become useful in a dire situation at some point in my sad, little life. Mr. Han makes his point that Kung Fu is not about fighting but about maturity and calmness in one’s life.
As Dre continues his training, his relationship with Mei Ying continues to grow, culminating in a kiss one evening and her promise to attend his karate tournament. Unfortunately, Mei Ying’s parents disapprove of her friendship with Dre and forbid her from seeing him further. Dre delves further into Mr. Han’s life one evening, finding out that years ago his wife and son were killed in a car accident in which he was the driver. Dre urges Mr. Han to allow him to heal from the accident rather than relishing in it year after year. After this, Mr. Han helps Dre win over Mei Ying’s parents who allow her to attend the tournament.
After about a billion years, an indulgent dance sequence, and the sports movie requisite training montage highlighting how spry our main character has become, we finally arrive at the karate tournament. Though clearly the underdog, Dre quickly begins to show that he has become quite good at his kung fu skills. Sparing you all the random eliminations and injuries throughout the tournament, Dre and Cheng end up facing off against each other in the final fight for the championship. Needless to say, Dre wins, as it wouldn’t have been much of a movie if Cheng broke Dre’s kneecaps, spit in his face, and then ran off with the trophy in one hand and Mei Ying in the other. Though I think I’d quite prefer that as an alternate ending to be included on the just in time for Christmas DVD release. That’s an ending I wouldn’t have minded paying $9.50 for.
Overall, The Karate Kid wasn’t a complete waste of 140 minutes, though I highly doubt that I will ever watch it again. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking and made me want to hop on the next flight to China and smother myself with adorable karate chopping toddlers. Jackie Chan’s turn as the mentor was quite impressive, though the only place he had to go was up, seeing as his baseline to the general public is the Rush Hour Trilogy. I’ve never seen him convey such emotion, though some of the more melancholy scenes were probably inspired by his memories of Chris Tucker’s career. I almost wish that martial arts wasn’t his schtick because he has the potential to be really, really good. Jaden Smith, while undeniably cute, should not keep his fingers crossed for any acting accolades in the near future. Unfortunately for us, the success of this movie will bring a false sense of security to Master Smith’s belief in his acting skills. And if the movie success doesn’t do it, I’m 100% confident Will and Jada will more than gladly step in.