Reel Critic: Audiences wax on, wax off again for 'Karate Kid'

Does it seem a bit lazy to remake "The Karate Kid" minus the karate? Now everybody's kung fu fighting — fast as lightning, rib-cracking action that makes the 1984 original seem as rough as "Joanie Loves Chachi."

Dre (Jaden Smith) reluctantly moves from Detroit to Beijing when his mom (wonderful Taraji P. Henson) gets a job transfer. Within hours of arrival, Dre is smitten by a lovely young musician (Wenwen Han) but gets the mu shu kicked out of him for talking to her. Cheng (Zhenwei Wang) and his friends do a pretty scary job of bullying Dre all over town.

What luck the maintenance man in Dre's building is none other than Jackie Chan, er, "Mr. Han." There's a fantastic fight sequence where Han takes out Kid Vicious, turning his bully buddies on each other as weapons.

Like a good little grasshopper, Dre learns old-school kung fu from Mr. Han — cue the requisite "Rocky"-style musical training montages with the Great Wall of China as a backdrop.

"Karate Kid" is too long, violent, and programmed to tug at our heartstrings. But it's hard to wax unenthusiastic over the plucky Smith and especially Chan, who finally gets to show some real acting chops.

'A-Team'? More like B-movie

Another old TV show gets elevated to the big screen as a major studio production. The hard-charging special effects are first-rate. But it's obvious this new version of "The A-Team" is really a B-movie action flick that's been done better many times before.

Liam Neeson provides star power in the team leadership role played by George Peppard in the original series. Bradley Cooper is the suave ladies man of the macho enterprise. Quinton Jackson plays the muscle man with a mohawk haircut made famous by Mr. T.

Together they offer some credibility as combat buddies who all served in the same military unit. After being drummed out of the service on phony charges, they become undercover operatives for hire. But the story starts to stretch when it attempts to add complex political intrigue to its comic-book setting.

Agents from the CIA, big business and rogue governments start popping up to cause problems for the team. Many ideas from the James Bond and Jason Bourne films show up in the plot. But in the end this is lots of mindless adventure designed to appeal to a teenage audience reared on video-game violence.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a financial services company.

JOHN DEPKO is a Costa Mesa resident and a senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office.

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