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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Karate Kid

By
John P. McCarthy
Source: Catholic News Service


Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith star in a scene from the movie "The Karate Kid."
The ambitious desire to modernize a classic has led to many a debacle, as has the aim of cashing in on a past financial success. Fortunately, misgivings about this update of 1984's popular "The Karate Kid" dissipate once it begins to unreel.

No doubt, the producers of 2010's "The Karate Kid" (Columbia) aren't standing on the shoulders of an artistic giant, and commercial considerations are never far from their minds (hence the hiring of teen sensation Justin Bieber to croon on the soundtrack). Yet the movie stirs and satisfies, exhibiting sufficient fealty to the original while improving on its production values.

Setting it in Beijing makes sense, as does casting Jaden Smith in the title role and international action star Jackie Chan as his unassuming mentor. Switching from karate, with its Japanese provenance, to kung fu is not an issue. Other embellishments on the timeless underdog story are likewise organic and positive.  The major flaw is a grandiose musical score, which telegraphs plot points and nearly overwhelms the film, thus accentuating its relatively long running time.

The new "Karate Kid" is also designed to showcase modern China, a function it fulfills by highlighting the architectural feats connected with the 2008 Olympics and through visits to the Forbidden City, a scenic mountain sanctuary, and the Great Wall.

Mostly because of chop-socky violence, it may be inappropriate for young moviegoers. But guardians should feel free to use their judgment about individual sensitivities, being aware that kids' attention may wander given the movie's length. Generic references to Eastern spirituality and the use of an ancient Chinese healing art are no cause for concern.

Like the original, this entertaining melodrama teaches valuable lessons regarding body and spirit. Director Harald Zwart stages the action sequences and quieter moments with sufficient adroitness. Whereas Pat Morita dominated the first version (receiving an Oscar nomination for his efforts), here Smith —son of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith—shines brightest thanks to his own charisma and Chan's restrained, caricature-free performance.

The film contains hard-hitting and occasionally cruel but not graphic martial arts violence, including a boy being struck across the face by an adult, the use of a crass term for the human posterior, some mild toilet humor, one instance of sexual innuendo, and an unnecessary kiss between pre-teens. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
*****
John P. McCarthy is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.


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John of Capistrano: It has been said the Christian saints are the world’s greatest optimists. Not blind to the existence and consequences of evil, they base their confidence on the power of Christ’s redemption. The power of conversion through Christ extends not only to sinful people but also to calamitous events. 
<p>Imagine being born in the 14th century. One-third of the population and nearly 40 percent of the clergy were wiped out by the bubonic plague. The Western Schism split the Church with two or three claimants to the Holy See at one time. England and France were at war. The city-states of Italy were constantly in conflict. No wonder that gloom dominated the spirit of the culture and the times. </p><p>John Capistrano was born in 1386. His education was thorough. His talents and success were great. When he was 26 he was made governor of Perugia. Imprisoned after a battle against the Malatestas, he resolved to change his way of life completely. At the age of 30 he entered the Franciscan novitiate and was ordained a priest four years later. </p><p>His preaching attracted great throngs at a time of religious apathy and confusion. He and 12 Franciscan brethren were received in the countries of central Europe as angels of God. They were instrumental in reviving a dying faith and devotion. </p><p>The Franciscan Order itself was in turmoil over the interpretation and observance of the Rule of St. Francis. Through John’s tireless efforts and his expertise in law, the heretical Fraticelli were suppressed and the "Spirituals" were freed from interference in their stricter observance. </p><p>He helped bring about a reunion with the Greek and Armenian Churches, unfortunately only a brief arrangement. </p><p>When the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, he was commissioned to preach a crusade for the defense of Europe. Gaining little response in Bavaria and Austria, he decided to concentrate his efforts in Hungary. He led the army to Belgrade. Under the great General John Hunyadi, they gained an overwhelming victory, and the siege of Belgrade was lifted. Worn out by his superhuman efforts, Capistrano was an easy prey to an infection after the battle. He died October 23, 1456.</p> American Catholic Blog When we are linked by the power of prayer, we as it were, hold each other’s hand as we walk side by side along a slippery path; and thus by the bounteous disposition of charity, it comes about that the harder each one leans on the other, the more firmly we are riveted together in brotherly love. —St. Gregory the Great

 
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