Fri, 11 Jun 2010 16:00:41 GMT

'The Karate Kid': New city, same moves

Fellow children of the '80s: Merely pondering the possibility of a 'Karate Kid' remake tears at the very fiber of our adolescence.

Review of The Karate Kid


No one else needs to say the words "wax on-wax off" ever again. No teen bully could possibly be as slickly menacing as Billy Zabka. And as climactic showdown songs go, nothing could beat the cliched bombast of "You're the Best Around." (Now it'll be stuck in your head the rest of the day, just like it's stuck in mine. You're welcome.)

Sure, John G. Avildsen's original 1984 movie was formulaic, but it was OUR formula. There was no doubt Daniel-San was ever going to lose to rich, arrogant Johnny, leader of the Cobra Kai, in the finals of the big karate tournament. But that was OK. He had heart on his side -- and the crane kick. Avildsen also directed 'Rocky', so he knew a little something about playing up the underdog theme for maximum emotional impact. We were sucked in despite ourselves.

Nevertheless, a new version of 'The Karate Kid' is upon us. Director Harald Zwart ('Agent Cody Banks') hits all the same notes and adheres closely to Robert Mark Kamen's original script, down to a sweep-the-leg moment in the finale. Details have been tweaked in Christopher Murphey's new script, including the setting: Instead of moving from New Jersey to Los Angeles because of his single mom's new job, our young hero moves from Detroit to Beijing, where he promptly incurs the wrath of the local thugs and learns martial arts to protect himself. (And by the way, it's now kung fu.)

But one of the biggest changes of all is the character's age.

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