Wednesday, July 7, 2010

July 7, 2010: Wax On, Wax Off.

I was 11 years old when The Karate Kid was released in 1984, and it was probably one of the most significant movies of my youth...right up there with Star Wars, Raiders of The Lost Ark, Stand By Me, and Back to the Future (see below). When you factor in a classic coming-of-age story, my insane crush on Elisabeth Shue, and what, at the time, was my uncanny resemblance to a 1984 Ralph was bound to be a hit. I was even The Karate Kid for Halloween one year, complete with handmade Okinawan headband. (Damn, I wish I had a scanner)

So when I first heard a couple of years ago that there was going to be a remake, I was not impressed. And then I heard that Will Smith was producing it as a vehicle for his son to star in it, with Jackie Chan as Mr. Miyagi. I say it that way because in the initial report I heard, they were intending to stay true to the characters as well as the story, with Jaden Smith being a black "Daniel LaRusso", and Chan being Mr. Miyagi. Thank God they ditched that idea.

I was skeptical to say the least. I mean, my experience of the movie was filled with visions of the Skeleton-clad Cobra Kai chasing a shower-costumed Daniel through the night; of Daniel trying to basically eat Ali's face on that first kiss in front of the water-slide; of Daniel driving his new 1950 yellow Chevrolet yelling "Banzai!"; of Billy Zabka's hair always looking like it just came directly out of a can of Pringles; of Sensei Kreese instructing Johnny to "sweep the leg" as that little rat Tommy yelled "Get him a body bag! Yeah!"
How can you remake those sorts of classic moments?

And also factor in that the final scene in the movie is without a doubt one of the most uplifting endings you will ever see. Seriously, watch it again at the end of this post.

A couple of years ago, I watched it with my son Lucas, who was 6 years old at the time, and he absolutely loved it. That led to a purchase of the box set (all 4 movies, including The Next Karate Kid with Hilary Swank), and a new generation of fan.

So when Lucas and I saw the trailer for the remake a few months ago, I have to admit, I was intrigued. It looked entertaining, and the fact that my son turned to me wide-eyed and said excitedly, "Dad! We HAVE to go see that!" carried a lot of weight.

We saw it last week, and I'm quite surprised to say that I loved it. If you haven't seen the original, this movie could stand on its own as a coming-of-age tale for a new generation of kids, and it was something that parents could enjoy as well...a good old fashioned 'clap at the end' sort of movie. (Remember when people still used to clap at the end of a movie?)

And if you are familiar with the original, the remake will keep you happy too, with knowing nods to the 1984 film, and a sense of staying true to key elements of the story and script. Sure, there's no traditional "Wax on, Wax off", but there's a lot you will shots, references, lines, and the Chinese Sensei even has the same damn hair as Kreese!

The one thing I was not a fan of at all was how brutal the scenes were in terms of fighting. Yes, I understand it's a movie based on a form of physical combat, but the scenes outside of the tournament setting were alarmingly violent. It's one thing to see teenagers in 1984 beating each other up in a PG-rated fight, but the characters in this version were around 12 years old, and I didn't enjoy seeing the brutality of the fighting.

All in all, a very impressive remake, and a huge hit with my son. He asked me on the way out which one I liked better, the old one or the new one...and there's really no contest. As great as it was, the original Karate Kid will always hold a special spot for me.


TresBelleKnits said...

Great review!
I too was very disappointed when I saw the trailer for the remake. I had no desire at all to see it.

I was a child of the 80's myself. I had posters of Ralphie all over my bedroom walls. Wait, did I just say that out loud?


Now, I think I'll give it a shot!

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I am intrigued. Like a lot of people, I assumed it would be crap, but it's kicking ass at the box office and getting good reviews.


Any2crds said...

I too was taken by the original movie and found it to be one of the biggest motivators in my quest for a black belt. Like myself, most people entering the martial arts was due to some sort of humiliating moment or a frightening experience where the ability to defend yourself could have turn the tides in your favor. I lived only a few blocks from the neighborhood that had the highest youth crime in Winnipeg. So naturally something was gonna happen to a white, 100 lb 13 year old kid. After constantly getting picked on and beat up by the neighboring 'natives', the final straw was when I was mugged for the 2nd time on my paper route (both times by 3 kids about the age of 14). Prior to ever seeing the movie (wasn't out yet)I decided to each myself to fight. Read Black Belt magazine and tried to mirror the movements and style of Bruce Lee from his movies (my hero). 6 months after my last encounter I was mugged AGAIN. 3 14-15 year old kids decided they wanted the $12 in my pocket. Mark, my best friend who was accompanying me while I was 'collecting' that day (yes, as a paperboy I had to go house to house and collect the money for the paper I delivered, very safe...) froze when I was tackled by the kids. As I was laying on my back getting pounded, something snapped in me, and for the first time I fought back. With no training and nothing really in the way of form or control I was able to kick one of the derelicts in the balls and break free to stand up. The moment I stood up and punched the alpha dickhead in the nose and they all ran away. My heart was pounding so hard and my adrenalin was so high I actually ran after them for about 20 steps. Although I did not have the hot girlfriend come running to me and give me the 'you're my hero hug' or a trophy and a sequel, I did have one thing.... a credible witness. It was the most significant turning point in building my confidence as a youth.I went from wimp to winner in an instant. I got a chance to see the movie with my buddy Mark when I was 15 (more than once I might add) and every time I saw the movie I thought about all the times I was picked on, bullied and beat up only because I was an easy target. I also thought of that mugging and how Mark told everyone at school how I kicked the asses of 3 bigger kids. Just imagine how it changed my status with other school kids. That movie motivated me to be a tournament fighter. Till this day, "The Karate Kid" was the most significant catalyst in the surge in martial arts in youth ever. Every body has a movie they feel symbolized their life or they related too in a significant way. Mine was 'The Karate Kid'. I hope my kids never feel the sting of bullying on any level especially the level I experienced. My son is going on 10 and I think he will enjoy the Karate Kid, new and old version. Although I have not seen the new version, the old or the new is a must see. I believe this movie should be part of all parents life's lessons library. Confidence in yourself is the 'Kryptonite' for all bullies. And this movie WILL change the lives of many kids.