On this morning’s Today show, Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith chatted with Matt Lauer about The Karate Kid, which opens tomorrow and reboots the Ralph Macchio–Pat Morita eighties franchise that spurred a generation of kids to take at least two years of karate before their parents let them quit. Though the original movie wasn’t exactly lauded for its véritélike depiction of karate training (the “sand-a-floor” technique still hasn’t caught on in dojos around the country), Morita’s Mr. Miyagi certainly looked like he knew what he was doing, especially when he took down Johnny and his punk friends (Morita was even nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar!). But alas, Chan goes on to crush our childhood fantasies. “The action movement, honestly … not really,” says the actor, who then agrees when Lauer asks him if he found the first movie “unrealistic.”
To amend that, Chan says that he (or, rather, one of his “best guys from Jackie Chan stunt team”) trained Smith so that he could do his own stunts, adding to the realism of a movie about a skinny 11-year-old who becomes a karate champion with the help of a stubbled Jackie Chan. Okay, so whereas Chan is an actual martial-arts expert, Morita got his start as a stand-up comedian known as “The Hip Nip,” and there’s no question who’s more qualified to play an actual karate teacher. But, to those of us who came of age in the Golden Age of Macchio, there will only ever be one Mr. Miyagi. Though Chan’s got the moves, when Morita told us that “a man who catch fly with chopsticks accomplish anything,” we really believed him. And even though in 25 years we’ve yet to successfully catch a fly with chopsticks, isn’t the fact that we kept trying what really matters?