Thursday, March 24, 2011

Karate Kids

The Karate Kid (1984)
Director: John G. Avildsen
Cast: Ralph Macchio, Pat Mortia, Elisabeth Shue
Released: June 22, 1984

Oscar nominations:
Best Supporting Actor - Pat Mortia (lost to Haing S. Ngor for The Killing Fields)

The Karate Kid (2010)
Director: Harald Zwart
Cast: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson
Released: June 11, 2010

I watched both of these films recently and thought I would do a double review since they're the same movie and all. I actually watched the remake before the original (even though I'd seen the original many, many years ago). Both movies are obviously similar, but there are a few differences.

Both films start out with the main character moving far from their home with their mother. In the '84 version, Ralph Maccio plays Danny, a high schooler who moves from New Jersey to California. In the '10 version, Jaden Smith (aka Will Smith's mini-me) plays a 12 year old named Dre who moves from the U.S. all the way to China. Both of them experience culture shock, but Dre more so!

Both of them have a hard time fitting in and want to go back home. They both encounter bullies who make their lives difficult. In the original, the bully doesn't like him because Danny begins dating his ex-girlfriend (Elisabeth Shue). In the remake, I'm not really sure why the little Chinese kid starts picking on him. It's like he sees this American kid and decides to start harassing him. Or perhaps he's jealous that Dre becomes friends with the cute little Chinese girl at their school.

Both Danny and Dre find father figures in their apartment's handyman. Pat Mortia plays the iconic Mr. Miyagi in the '84 film. (And I had no idea that he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar) and  Jackie Chan plays Mr. Han in the 2010 film. Both are experts in karate (or in Mr. Han's case, kung fu) and teach their new proteges some moves to defend themselves against the bullies who are beating them up. However, while their students are eager to learn how to karate chop or any other cool martial art moves, their teachers start them off with what seem more like chores. In the original, Danny has to wax Mr. Miyagi's car (you may be familiar with the phrase "wax on, wax off"), paint his house and gate and sand his porch. In the remake, Mr. Han only focuses on one specific task for Dre: for him to take off his coat,  drop it on the ground, pick it up and hang it up.

Both boys get really frustrated until what they're doing is teaching them karate/kung fu in its own weird way and soon they're being taught real karate/kung fu. They both enter a karate/kung fu contest (and of course the bullies are already enrolled in karate/kung fu) and I'm probably not spoiling anything by saying that they overcome their bullies and earn their respect.

The only female characters in the film are the mother and the girlfriend. The mother is more prevalent in the remake while the girlfriend is more so in the original. (Although Danny's mother had to drive them on their dates because Danny didn't own a car. Ouch, kid, ouch.)

I have to say that I prefer the 2010 version to the original. Yes, it is much more updated, so that's probably one of the reasons why I like it better. There's a scene in the original where Danny is showing off his new car he got from Mr. Miyagi to his girlfriend and says to her, "I'll even let you drive it!" and she goes, "Really?!" and he says, "Yeah, it's the '80s!" Okay, I'm sorry, but that scene cracked me up. I wasn't around in the '70s, but from what I'm gathering, women were not allowed to drive before the '80s!  Um, okay...

Also, I was really young when the original was released, so when I first saw it, it was probably on video and it doesn't really hold any nostalgic value for me while I'm sure it does for people who were old enough to see it in the theater when it was released. Also, the remake has amazing cinematography, being filmed in China and all. But you have to give the original credit, because there were some scenes in the remake that are literally framed shot by shot as the original.

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