Last night I watched three different remakes. My philosophy on remakes is that they’re worthwhile if they offer a new twist on old material. So remakes of Romeo and Juliet often turn out well as each generation has different rules on what’s considered a forbidden romance. The Office is another example of successful remake material. Each country has its own business culture. A British Office and an American Office can tell a similar story but with the unique differences that speak to each country. Here’s what the three remakes I watched last night had to offer:
The Karate Kid (*** 1/2) –  I loved the original version of this movie. It was very California-based though, which made it ripe for a remake. In this version, 12-year-old Dre (played by Jaden Smith) and his mom move to China to start a new life. He meets the standard bullies, gets in the forced–but necessary–humiliating beat down by those bullies, and vows to learn to beat them fairly with the help of an older and wiser mentor.
Jaden Smith is as vulnerable and charming as Ralph Macchio and adds a broader American definition to the role. Jackie Chan is a solid replacement for Pat Morita and moving the story to China adds a global twist with stunning scenery during the crucial training montages. Though the romance of twelve-year-olds was a bit awkward, I liked how the story was updated with more of a friendship theme where the boy and girl promise to support each other’s dream. It was especially nice to see the girl have her own talents and life instead of just being a handmaiden for the boy.
At almost 2 1/2 hours the story is a little overlong but includes tons of wonderful scenes of China. Overall, the new Karate Kid is a solid version for a new generation. [Watched on DVD rented from Netflix. Also available for rental on iTunes.]
Skins (***) – The first two seasons of the British version of Skins were sublime. In just 20 episodes Skins told a story of adolescence that was wild, unrealistic, bawdy, sweet, cautionary, and all too real. If you never saw the British version, GO WATCH IT.
That said, the American version isn’t as horrible as I thought it would be. Most of the cast is solid with a couple exceptions. In the British version, Tony is a charismatic, manipulative alpha-boy who holds the group together. It’s not a easy role to nail and unfortunately American Tony doesn’t. Instead he comes across as merely smarmy and bland. Some of the actors — the one who plays Chris, for example– offer a uniquely American take while still being the embodiment of the original character. The one major casting difference is that Maxxie– the level-headed gay boy and talented tap dancer– is replaced by a lesbian cheerleader named Tea. I haven’t seen enough of her to know what I think about this change.
While it was nice to finally watch a show about working class American teens instead of yet another show about rich teens, the American pilot is line-for-line and scene-for-scene an almost exact copy of the British version. It’s not a bad show, just a lesser copy. [New episodes on Mondays at 10/9c and available for online viewing the next day at MTV online.]
Being Human (*** 1/2) – Three twenty-somethings share an apartment together. They just happen to be a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost. I liked the first British season a lot but wasn’t too keen on the second season, so I’m more open to an American version of Being Human.
The American version is very similar to the British version but not an exact copy. The characters have different names and slightly different personalities and lines. Like Skins, it’s refreshing to have a show about working class young people instead of the usual glossy wealthy characters that are the standard of American shows. Aiden, Josh, and Sally aren’t as endearing as Mitchell, George, and Annie yet, but they’re interesting and different enough that I’ll keep watching to see what happens. [New episodes on Mondays at 9/8c on SyFy and available for online viewing the next day on Hulu.]