Masochist Cinema: Li’l Smiff’s THE KARATE KID

Posted: November 16, 2010 in JADEN SMITH, THE KARATE KID


Oh boy, so CHOPPAH took one for all you li’l CHOPlings out there. That’s right, ol’ CHOP subjected himself to the new KARATE KID (nee KUNG FU KID) last weekend. CHOPPAH knows it’s sacrilege, and CHOPPAH hopes my old TalkBack adversary/chum Cobra–Kai isn’t ashamed of me. But hey, THE CHOPPAH’s a fucking professional, and what do professionals do? They know their fucking enemies, and this movie is an enemy of all those who would rather shit on mediocrity than indulge it.

This flick is pretty much a beat-for-beat remake, but with loads of noticeable flab around the edges. For instance, instead of letting Daniel figure out why Mr. Miyagi is all drunk and depressed, Li’l Smiff (you are no Ralph Macchio, young man!) and his Mr. Miyagi (Jackie Chan’s Mr. Han, a name that lacks the endearing poetry of Miyagi) have a weepy scene that tells us everything we could have figured out from a few newspaper clippings. The mom’s role is also expanded, but CHOPPAH didn’t mind it that much since Taraji P. Henson is damned fine. CHOPPAH’d like to see more of her, if you catch CHOPPAH’s drift.

On the plus side, though: The fights are more brutal, which is a little shocking since this version centers on a 12-year-old whose voice has yet to change instead of a 17-year-old on the home stretch out of puberty. The best battle is when Mr. Han (Zzzzzz) defends Li’l Smiff against the bullies. It’s a little sad to see Jackie fighting preteens, but it was nice to see the old man in action. Jackie’s the best part of the movie, actually. CHOPPAH was really impressed with the way he conveyed Han’s pain and world weariness, and the movie suffers when he’s off screen since his gravity is a necessary balance to young Smiff’s relentless mugging.

Okay, it sounds like CHOP’s being too hard on the kid when it’s really his parents’ fault for encouraging him to be too much like daddy. Some parts of the movie are just eerie in the way he looks and sounds like Will. More often than not, of course, it’s grating, but, like his dad, he does manage to exude some genuine charm beneath all that tween-friendly “attitude.” (Ugh. CHOPPAH can’t believe CHOPPAH wrote that.)

What does a Smiff know about angst?

Still, CHOPPAH can’t say he really cared all too much about Li’l Smiff’s predicament. CHOPPAH never believed the kid felt any real pain, shame or fear. He never really seemed like a kid who has been picked on or underestimated for years, like Daniel was in the original. This kid hasn’t reached 13 yet. What does he know about angst? And anyway, so what if he gets bullied for a little while when he’s a kid? Look at him, he’s Will Smith’s son and already a little tweenybopper heartbreaker. You know he’s going to be fine in the long run. Macchio at least looked like he needed to stand up for himself in such a grand and brave manner in order to avoid being a doormat for the Johnnys of the world the rest of his life.

The bullies, sadly, are another weak point. Sure, the lead bully is a paternalistic fuck with a real asshole face, but he looks just like any other kid over there in China (no, P.C. Police, CHOPPAH is not saying “they all look the same,” just that this kid is too damned insignificant-looking). Billy Zabka’s Johnny looked like the golden douche god of his little tribe of jock scumbags. The kid in this movie isn’t even the biggest one in his group. The whole evil “dojo” is disappointing, too. These fake Cobra Kai (CHOPPAH doesn’t even remember the name of the dojo, or “studio”) are nondescript and uncharismatic, from the Johnny analog’s somewhat humane toady up to the “sensei” or “master.” Doesn’t China have its own Martin Kove?

Finally, the tournament, instead of being the shamelessly rousing climax it should be, is just another rote, quick-edited exercise in formula filmmaking, complete with a bathetic score by James Horner that quivers in the presence of Bill Conti’s iconic work in the original. Maybe CHOPPAH’s just a big softy at heart, but CHOPPAH tears up every time CHOPPAH sees the ending of the original KARATE KID. CHOPPAH also teared up at the end of this one, only because CHOPPAH was thinking of the original.

2.5 CHOPS out of 5

  1. Benson says:

    Hilarious! Fucking loved this review man.

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