Sunday, June 13, 2010

DESCOVRIR'S PICK: THE KARATE KID




It was a positive movie.

And the laugh trip it was among moviegoers earlier.

And I felt good after watching it.

The Karate Kid (1984, 1986, 1989) is the movie of my youth, along with the songs that became popular with it like "The Moment of Truth," "You're the Best," and Peter Cetera's "Glory of Love." It's a movie you kept watching over and over for the feel good effect, that's why I looked forward to that same element, and the 2010 remake didn't disappoint.

The film, starring Jaden Smith (Ralph Macchio before) and Jackie Chan (Pat Morita then), borrowed from the Karate Kid I, considering the plot (Smith being bullied at school and found a mentor in Chan); the scenes (Chan trying to catch a fly with his chopsticks), the unconventional ways Chan teaches Smith (jacket on, jacket off, put it up, put it down - with an attitude).

From the Karate Kid II, the setting was Asian - when it was in Okinawa, Japan before for its setting (when Morita's character had to return to his hometown because of his ailing father and to face his old enemy), this remake makes China for the location.

Also, it has explored more the underdog and minority themes - with Smith being a black kid in a foreign, and hostile "home" (considering how he was bullied). And the subliminal plot of how China enforces how a power they could be - like how they raise kids to be "perfect" (Mei Ying, the girl Smith has a crush on, was pressured to be very good in violin), the bully kid, Cheng, was taught to show no pain, no mercy. But it was also funny to see how Mei Ying succumbed to the Lady Gaga fever, dancing better than Smith.

Also, I find this more "Asian" than the Karate Kid' franchise - it was set in China; the kung fu or the martial arts theme of this film was more alive (the scene where Smith entered a kung fu school and children being taught such discipline at a very young age, it was captivating).

Although, I looked forward to more scenes of Chan and Smith, like how Macchio was taught by Morita technique by technique (wax on, wax off, hand up, hand down, left hand small wooden plank, right hand big wooden plank, etc.) - here in this remake, it was a fast montage, only a music accompanying the scenes where Chan was teaching Smith, could have been more convincing if such have had dialogue in them, and the serene backdrop, were just that, backdrop.

I cried when after Chan smashed the car, Smith pulled him out of it with the bamboo sticks being pulled by them, Smith leading the way for Chan. Every movement was captured through their shadows and such was impressive.

Unexpectedly, it was Smith who delivered the most laughs. From the first time he met Cheng (where he stood up despite teary-eyed), to mimicking Chan to put up the jacket with a flick of the hands and an "attitude," to how the playback during tournament, when he was captured with such fighitng stance - and face with an attitude; and how he tries his hardest to do the cobra style, and was able to use it and won. Chan also had his funny moments (like how he panted after he tame the bully kids).

I found it disconcerting though that for the 12-year-old lead, only to reach puberty, he kissed Mei Ying, and toward the end of the film, he went to her house and told the father, in Chinese, he'd be the best friend his daughter would ever have - so, tween romance or what? I didn't like it also Chan sporting a funny walk, maybe to emphasize he is old - even Morita who was way older than Chan was walking straight.

The original's ending was lacking - Macchio walked away with the trophy and that was it. This remake, I found it more satisfying (see for yourself).

But like I wrote, it didn't disappoint. The soundtrack was nicely collated also - and I got a surprise when I was singing along the closing song, "Never Say Never," only to find in the credits that it was Justin Bieber singing!

I don't like Bieber himself, but for this song, I have to admit, it kicked up my optimism a notch higher. As the movie delivered, when life puts you down, there's no way to go but up, and yes, never say never.

And now, Justin Bieber is playing on my head ....
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