I can’t for the life of me think how this is a 2 ½ hour film, I just can’t work out how they managed to do it. It is either sleight of hand or mismanagement of film but all I know is that this straightforward story didn’t need to impinge that much upon my time.
Lil’ Will is Dre, his Mum calls herself Miss Sheri. Miss Sheri can best be described by herself as “sassy”, at least that is how she appears to see herself.
Dre and Miss Sheri are moving to China after the death of Dre’s Father. What she does in China is not explained, nor is why she doesn’t seem to attempt to learn Chinese.
When they arrive at their apartment a white (and I mean white, he is the blondest of blonde and hasn’t seen the sun in months) kid practically meets him at the car door, gives him a flawlessly executed two step handshake that involves no shake and more or less states to the world “I’ll be you best bud from here on in” to Dre. Blondie gets one more scene and is never seen again.
In classic film style that next scene introduces Dre to the only other main characters we will see in the movie. It happens almost immediately after the meeting at the car, so in about 15 minutes of real time Dre meets everyone he will spend the next couple of months with… and yet the movie still takes 2 ½ hours!
So the scene, Dre goes to ask the maintenance man named Mr Han (Jackie Chan) for some help, when that request falls on deaf ears he runs into whitey again and plays basketball… for one shot. Then Dre sees a pretty young Chinese girl sitting on a bench, he chats her up by performing some sort of Chris Brown dance, only he leaves out the punch at the end… classy. This catches the eye of some other local kids who step up to Dre who has a few words and is then beaten up.
So to recap: in two scenes we’ve met the hero, the sidekick who disappears, the soon-to-be teacher, the love interest and the bully… and the fucking thing STILL takes 2 ½ hours.
Of course the next day at school sees the love interest Mei-Ying and the bully Cheng in Dre’s class. The next few scenes have them all running into each other every five minutes, at school and after. Dre and Mei-Ying share awkward pre-teen glances and chats and the bully and his two buds always seem to be in the background warning him away.
This all comes to a head when for no reason Dre decides to get his own back on the bullies by soaking them with something (I hope it was water). Of course they chase him and start beating him the bejesus our of him when out of nowhere Mr Han shows up and saves the day.
(And I mean out of nowhere, Cheng cocks his fist with no-one in picture; he throws the punch and there is Mr Han to catch it. Amazing reflexes for a 55+ year old to appear Raiden style out of thin air.)
Mr Han then beats up all 6 bullies without throwing a punch, he basically wins by using the bullies as weapons. Dre is amazed and demands that Mr Han teach him.
Getting somewhere right? Surely? Well sort of, I’ll >> a little by stating that Mr Han takes Dre to enrol in a kung-fu class, only Cheng is the star pupil and the Sensei character is a prick. The upshot of this is that Dre will be taught by Mr Han and that he will fight in a karate tournament soon, how that came to be the net result makes no sense to me.
To heighten matters Mei-Ying is ordered by her parents to stop talking with Dre, but in one Cyrano De Bergerac scene Dre sorts that out and all is forgiven.
Anyway, training takes about 40 minutes but is really only one 4 minute montage near the end. The first 20 minutes is less “wax-on wax-off” than “Jacket-on, jacket-off”. Dre begins to doubt that his master has skillz, also why he is not comfortable in public and most of all why he has a car in his living room.
For another 20 minutes Han takes Dre on a spiritual journey where he drinks “Magic Kung-fu water”. Cue the final montage and the tournament.
See this is my point. The initial set-up of the entire film is shown in maybe the first 15 minutes, then there is another 30+ before Mr Han actually starts training him. Small subplots crop up along the way, but they are generally dealt with quickly. The training lasts about an hour start to finish but is really two scenes of maybe 8 minutes total, the montage does most of the work. This leaves 12 or so minutes for the entire tournament, yet by the time it starts we are almost 2 hours in!
This is a PG movie, furthermore a remake of an extremely well regarded classic PG movie. The plot is already in place and most viewers know what is happening before it happens. Please don’t take 150 minutes to make a 90 minute movie. This would be far more effective with a minimum of 30 minutes cut out, and I bet you wouldn’t notice what was taken.
As an example early in the film there are at least three scenes that show traffic on the Chinese freeways backed up for ages, we know China has a lot of people in it, it’s the most densely populated country in the world, don’t show us three times.
Another scene has Dre walking from his apartment to another location, the scene takes a few minutes and he encounters no problems along the way, yet we see every step of the journey. (Revised scene: Dre – “Mum I’m leaving.” Cut. Mr Han – “Hi Dre, you’re here”. Cut. Print. Scene. 20 seconds spent, three minutes saved.
Back to the film – The tournament brings no surprises, there are no incredible new moves or jaw dropping sequences, this is very much due to the fact 12 year olds are fighting and real violence would absolutely not be tolerated in such circumstances.
In summing up the movie is too damn long. Jackie proves that he can act and has a great bemused face when told something he disagrees with, Lil’ Will is competent but the real test will come when his voice breaks in a couple years, and Miss Sheri is sassy in the background without being asked to do much more than look concerned.
This is definitely not an upgrade as an update of the original, and when that film still holds up well anyway it is a fair to ask if we needed this film at all. But in isolation as a star-vehicle for Will’s kid (which in essence is what it is) it does the job without the spark of the original.
Those too young to have seen the first version may like this, those who are old enough to have seen both will wonder if this was really necessary.
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. A likable movie that takes too long to tell a simple story and doesn’t really stretch itself any more than it needs to.