Watching the newly released Karate Kid remake was so disturbing that I made a point of writing the parents of my grandchildren and advising them of the film’s excessive violence and undesirable message.

Like the previous Karate Kid films, there is an inspiring segment on training for persistence. This film also includes some lovely photography of China: the Great Wall, a mountain monastery. But these assets could not overcome the liabilities.

The music score was so heavy handed I felt insulted. Could I not be trusted to have my own emotional reaction? The acting was so poor that the tear-jerker, confessional scene between Jade Smith and Jackie Chan in his (heavy handed symbolism here) broken automobile pulled me completely out of the movie to observe the effort required to portray tears and sorrow.

But the most disturbing aspect of the film is the gross violence. I have never before seen a film in which children beat one another senseless. And then keep beating them. It was chilling. It was Lord of the Flies writ large.

The closing scenes are of violent competition. What is heralded as heroic is when the main character, a 12-year-old boy, ignores his broken leg and continues to fight. There is an attempt to soften the lesson to ignore your body’s needs by having Jade say he must fight in order to stop being afraid. This spoken rationale, itself a little troubling, was overshadowed by the graphic footage of conquering (that is, kicking in the face) the other boy.

The children in the theater tittered at the occasional obscenity, but the real objection to this film is the violence between children and the sports-minded message of forcing the body to continue beyond its breaking point. It certainly brought to my mind the use of drugs to cover up injuries in American sports.

Not the lessons I want for my grandchildren.

Julie Bowden, of Santa Barbara, is a Santa Barbara marriage, family, and child therapist.


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