We’ve seen some really amazing and unforgettable things to promote movies at ShoWest in years past like New Line’s amazing musical presentation for Hairspray for instance, but Sony Pictures may have trumped them all with their amazing presentation preceding the first screening of Harald Zwart’s The Karate Kid, starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan.
Even before exhibitors gathered in the Paris Hotel’s Le Theater Des Arts and Bally’s Jubilee Theater, they were treated to a delicious luncheon of Chinese food surrounded by posters, a giant stand-up of Jaden’s pose from the poster, and two large displays showing gorgeous images from China. The latter images carried over to the theater, the lobby adorned with all sorts of Chinese themed decorations. A group of roughly thirty Asian women in decorative red dresses streamed in and lined the entranceway, but that really couldn’t prepare the audience for what they were about to witness after patiently waiting for the show to begin.
For the next fifteen minutes, the audience was thrilled by an impressive display of Chinese acrobatics and martial arts, all punctuated by a traditional soundtrack of Chinese drums and cymbals. Six Chinese dragons marched into the theater and took their place on stage followed by what seemed like a hundred performers bearing flags and Chinese weapons. There were dancers/acrobats in large ceramic heads who did all sorts of crazy moves in time with the dragons, before a group of martial artists who had been standing patiently to the side of the stage gave the audience a brief presentation of kung fu. It was an incredibly colorful presentation that ended with a big bang as confetti cannons showered the entire audience in colored paper. We’re hoping that some of the television cameras present were able to capture the experience, although there was so much going on on stage, it’s hard to describe it even for someone from Chinatown who sees this sort of thing on a much smaller scale a number of times a year.
With that out of the way, they began the introductions for the movie, starting with Rory Bruer, Sony’s President of Worldwide Distribution, who brought out director Harald Zwart, and the producers of The Karate Kid, including Jerry Weintraub, who produced the original, as well as the biggest surprise, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, there to represent Overbrook Productions. After Will Smith and Jerry Weintraub said a few words about the movie and how it came about, they presented the Breakthrough Male Star of the Year to Will and Jada’s son Jaden who came out with sunglasses on his head, which his mother promptly took off him. He didn’t have much to say while accepting the award except, “My dad prepared a speech for me full of funny stuff, but I’m only 11 and I’m really nervous… so thank you!” before he sheepishly exited the stage and Smith introduced The Karate Kid.
Unfortunately, we can’t review the movie, but we can say that this is not really a remake as much as taking the premise and themes from the original, relocating the story to China, and creating a version that can appeal to modern audiences regardless of age or gender. It has all the warmth and humor of the original movie, but it also has a hipness that makes it feel very much of the moment. Most of that comes in the form of Jaden Smith, who has all of the charm and personality of his father, whether cracking jokes or taking part in the film’s emotional dramatic moments. In fact, there were just as many tearful moments as Toy Story 3, and the chemistry between him and Jackie Chan is on par with the Ralph Macchio-Pat Morita relationship in the original movie. Taraji P. Henson is terrific as Jaden’s mother, and there are a lot of strong performances from the Asian actors, including the actress who plays Jaden’s love interest, a really adorable Chinese girl. It does take some time to get to the action, but the kung fu is very well done, and you can definitely see the influence of Jackie Chan and his stunt team on the martial arts. Personally, we can’t wait to see the movie again and talk about it more at length, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining experience to see what they’ve done with the ’80s classic. We can certainly see this movie doing for modern audiences what that movie did in its day.
Also, we’ll gladly go on record that Sony has a serious Oscar contender on their hands in many categories with The Karate Kid, including Best Picture, directing, writing, cinematography, James Horner’s score, and yes, even Jackie Chan in the supporting actor category! You can take that to the bank, but you might have to stand in line behind Sony, because they’re going to make a lot of money when The Karate Kid becomes the sleeper hit of the summer once it opens on June 11. (Sometime in April, we’ll have the Weekend Warrior’s Summer Box Office Preview and will talk more about the film’s box office potential then.)
After the film, people streamed out of the theater and received a cool sack with the logo and a warm-up jacke, which you can see in the pictures below. There’s still one-and-a-half more days of ShoWest, but those who attended the Sony presentation and the movie will not forget it anytime soon.