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We're All Falling For The Remake Sham

June 23, 2010 - John Whittaker

 'Sure, "The Karate Kid"is about standing up to bullies — even those that come from within.
And while we're at it, this weekend's new megaplex conqueror has a healthy swatch of "Rocky" in its DNA, too."

Buffalo News review of The Karate Kid

I've heard the old adage that those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it. I didn't know the adage for the 21st century is those who don't know movie history are doomed to repeat old movies, because Hollywood refuses to push the limit for anything new.
Take, for example, The Karate Kid.
Before I get on a rant, let me just state, for the record — and you can all shout it with me, if you want — THE KARATE KID WAS ABOUT STANDING UP TO BULLIES WHEN IT CAME OUT 20 YEARS AGO, TOO!! I just wanted to get that out of my system.
You can get a copy of The Karate Kid for $5 at Wal-Mart. You can see the movies constantly on the basic digital cable package (they even ran a marathon of all three original movies with Ralph Maccio's unable-to-act, grating-as-hell-on-my-nerves performance a couple of weeks ago. Heck, some of you probably still have a copy kicking around on VHS. You can watch this movie anytime you want and save the $8 ticket the movie theatres want you to spend, plus popcorn and pop money. Don't get me started on the price for a box of SweetTarts.
Jaden Smith might be a better actor than Maccio. In fact, I'd be willing to bet my left testicle that he is. And yes, Jackie Chan is involved in the remake— but how much of an upgrade is he over Pat Moryita? By the way, where's Randee Heller, the prototypical working mom of 1980s Hollywood cinema? Where's Elizabeth Shue, the cute girl next door who inadvertently gets Daniel into all sorts of trouble with the Cobra Kais? And, where's Billy Zabka, the preppy, blond-haired, blue-eyed 1980s movie villain? If you're going to make a movie about bullying and dealing with the facts of life, don't those characters need to be involved?
Sorry for the nitpicking, but it's so easy. We'll get back to my original point here, which is the stupidity of the American public.
I'd also be willing to bet I'm not plunking down $40 for a family of four to go see a movie I can see at home for $5. And, when we get down to it, it's the same movie. Sure, the scenery has changed. The production value is much better. And we won't have to wince our way through Ralph Maccio butchering every scene he's in. Is that enough for me to see the new Karate Kid in a theatre? Nope.
I'll almost guarantee that some enterprising producer set up a meeting with a Hollywood studio executive that went something like this:
Producer: Well, Sam, I've got this year's hot summer blockbuster for you. It's about a kid who doesn't know anybody in a new town. He keeps getting mixed up with these karate guys who continually kick the crap out of him until he meets a handyman who teaches him about karate and life. Then, he wins a tournament at the end and is a better man for the trouble
Studio Executive: Well, that sounds kind of like The Karate Kid. You know, that movie from the 1980s with that horrible lead actor and the guy that ran the restaurant in Happy Days? The kid moves from New Jersey to California, meets a handyman who teaches him karate and then beats that kid from Back to School in the karate tournament finals.
Producer: Well, this movie is called The Karate Kid, too. And, it's better. We travel. There are more exotic locations because we set the movie in China. And, we freshen up the language and music so it's hip and new. And, we've got Jackie Chan under contract to play Mr. Miyagi, but we can't call him Mr. Miyagi because anyone between the ages of 28 and 35 will scream bloody murder. In fact, we won't call the main character Daniel. Did I mention we got Will Smith's kid to play the lead character? Oh yeah, we did. And, we have to call it kung fu instead of karate, because it's cooler. That'll fool everybody into spending $40 or $50 a pop to come see our movie.
Studio Executive: I don't know. You want me to spend $200 million on a movie we've already made, that was so well loved by an entire generation that it spawned three sequels and became a huge part of 1980s culture? Are you sure people will spend money to see it? You don't have naked pictures of me, do you?
Producer: Of course I don't have any pictures that you know of. You see, I'm pitching you this movie because the American public is stupid. They've already forgotten that old, crappy movie. They want to see the new, improved Karate Kid. Remember when we remade The Longest Yard? It made tons of money even though it murdered the memory of one of the best sports movies ever. We changed the ending, made it a comedy instead of a dramatic movie and even suckered the guy who starred in the first to play a bit part in our remake. We're Hollywood. We can do whatever we want because we're smart and the public is too stupid to know better. They'll plunk down their $8 a ticket and be damned glad for the opportunity.
And that's how we get stuck with a remake of a classic 1980s period movie that isn't old enough to be remade.
Is the Buffalo News review wrong?
Absolutely not. The Karate Kid is about standing up to bullies. It has a healthy dosage of Rocky in it, too. And yes, it is a movie about the best way to reach kids, another point made by the Buffalo News reviewer.
I'd love to see this movie fall flat on its face. I'd love to see the studio lose hundreds of millions of dollars from making it. I'd love to see the A-Team fail, too. But I know they won't — because we're all idiots.


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