Review: The Kung Fu Kid

The Kung Fu Kid | Harold Zwart, 2010

Note: I know that here in the U.S it is called The Karate Kid, but I refuse to call it that since it is about Kung Fu, plus it was called The Kung Fu Kid everywhere else. Also, I didn’t want to compare the movies, but I can’t help it.

I watched The Karate Kid on TV shortly after the release of The Kung Fu Kid. I grew up watching it because my brother, who saw it in a theater when it first came out, would watch it often, and it had been a while since I had seen it. One of the first things I noticed on this viewing of it was that it hadn’t actually aged well.  The music, the clothes, the dialogue seems cheesy now a days. But, by the time the movie ends you don’t really notice all that since it is such an exciting movie. So, this viewing of the movie enforced my thought that no remake could ever surpass it. So, after watching The Kung Fu Kid, I have now proven that, but as a stand-alone movie, it is surprisingly good.

This movie follows pretty much the plot of the original to the tee: wimpy kid is bullied, is interested in a beautiful girl, and must earn the respect of the bullies, who learned their skills in a kick-ass dojo, in a tournament, for which he will be trained by a wise, but reclusive man. However, the kids in this are much younger, it takes place in China, and the bad guys aren’t so much kids with impressive fighting skills, but they are more or less trained to be weapons.

Like I said, as a stand-alone movie, meaning if you don’t compare it to Karate, it is pretty good. Jaden Smith is rather good a Dre, the new kid in town who wants to learn kung fu. Jackie Chan is no Pat Morita and his Mr. Han is no Mr. Miyagi, but he is charming and believable enough. One of his best performances. The rest of the cast are just there for support, and they are not worth writing about. Also, I was rather surprised by the direction of the film. Sure, it is not great direction, but it was controlled, and it did what it had to do. I’m surprised that this was directed by the guy who made The Pink Panther 2.

The big problem, though, is the script. The only original thing that they did to make it stand on its own was taking it out of the U.S and turning Karate into Kung Fu. And the dialogue is clunky. And the music, is…just no. I like Lady Gaga, but this is the second time this year that “Poker Face” was painfully used in a movie. And Justin Bieber sings the end credit song. Way to make sure that your movie will not stand the test of time. And James Horner’s score is rather disappointing. I’m beginning to see why they say that every score of his is derivative. During the big training montage I could hear cues from “I See You”  from Avatar, and it distracted me. It’s okay to composers to have a signature sound, but this is just too much.

So, even though it copies a lot from the original, it will never reach its iconic status. Why? Because people still love Karate, and most importantly, it doestn’t have that one awesome and iconic move that generations to come will want to do. To this day The Crane is still resonant, and this movie just doesn’t have a move that immediately wows you and makes you want to learn it. Also, there is no an Elizabeth Shue-is beauty.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed The Kung Fu Kid, but don’t let this replace The Karete Kid. That movie that is over 20 years old is still more resonant, despite the things that have made it age.

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