When you set out to take on one of the quintessential coming-of-age movies of all time you better bring your A game. With mega-power couple Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith producing you may just have a chance.
The remake of The Karate Kid takes the original and gives it a new look and culture.
The film begins with Sherry Parker (Taraji P. Henson) being transferred from Detroit to China due to auto industry failures. (Nice touch throwing in recent economic strife) Her son Dre (Jaden Smith), having lost his father years earlier, laments the move but obviously has little say. Despite his mothers efforts to get him to learn some of the language Dre finds himself the ultimate outsider. An African-American pre-teen in China with no grasp of the language, no friends and little support from his mother.
He is quickly taken with Meiying, a young girl that he sees in the park and tries to strike up a friendship only to have his first run in with bully, Cheng. After a vicious beating the stage is set for young Dre to come into his own as a martial arts prodigy and ultimately defeat the bully with the help of reluctant teacher Mr Han (Jackie Chan). (Did I give too much away?)
The remake takes us in a completely different direct than the original as it sets up in a foreign country, this is a pretty wise choice of the film makers, it allows you to quickly connect with the main character. All of us have been strangers in a strange place at some time or another and can completely relate to Dre’s plight. Add that to incredible shots of the people and sights of China and you have a stunning piece of work.
Jaden Smith does a very good job of carrying this movie. Lots of glimpses of his dad (Will Smith) in his delivery and mannerisms. Jackie Chan kind of takes a step outside of himself in playing Mr. Han, a maintenance man that has some personal demons of his own. The two do form a believable relationship.
The movie does have some throwback parts to the original, how could it not? Even with the obvious tie ins to the 1984 classic there are some scenes that lead up to you thinking something is about to be the same only to throw you a curve. Good job in that respect.
There are a few oddities in the film. It is called The Karate Kid, yet he is taught Kung Fu. What happens to the little blonde kid Dre meets upon moving to China?
Those two aside, KK is a solid family movie that had the preview audience in the theater cheering and laughing through much of the film as well as groaning and gasping with the fight scenes (which outdo the original by far).
Gone are Mister Miyagi and Daniel-son but brought in is a heartwarming and sometimes emotional ride that will have you feeling good by the end.
I am not a movie critic, but if I were to give a rating on this feature and use my own scale. 3 out of 4 popcorn bags. Go see it and take a kid.