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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 Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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