After his mother (Henson) accepts a job in China, preteen Dre Park (played by Jaden Smith) is forced to move to the new country. He attempts to befriend others, but loses all of them except for Mei Ying (Han), his new girlfriend, after getting attacked by a bully (Cheng). After almost being killed, he is rescued by his maintenance man, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), who does much more than maintenance. When Dre is forced to fight his bully, Cheng, in the upcoming tournament; Mr. Han steps in and teaches him Kung-Fu, and now Dre has to take matters into his own hands. Written by
At the very beginning of the movie, one of the markings on Dre's wall says 7/8/07-9th birthday. This is the actual 9th birthday of Jaden Smith, who plays Dre. See more »
Though the plot of the movie revolves around kung fu rather than karate, the title "The Karate Kid" is a direct reference to the bullies calling him the "Karate Kid" when he takes up a stance at the beginning of the fight. See more »
No wax-on wax-off but this Karate Kid would make Mr. Miyagi proud
Over the years, I have taken a lot of grief from friends for making The Karate Kid, the 1984 movie directed by Rocky Oscar winner John G. Avildsen, one of my five favorite movies of all time. So it was with apprehension and low expectations that I went to see the remake.
Wow, what a magnificent job of re-creating the first film while modernizing it, setting it in China, and bringing all the tension, man-love, and depth back to the big screen. This time, Dutch director Harald Zwart added wonderful scenic views of China and lost a bit of the sometimes-cheesy dialog. But to his credit, he kept a great deal of the original plot intact. Mom is transferred to Beijing and takes her son with her without much worrying about his feelings. Dre immediately finds trouble as the American outsider who befriends the beautiful Chinese girl. There is the evil sensei of the trained-to-maim thugs who rule the school that our hero, Dre Parker (Jaden Smith), has been thrown into. The bad kids target him, and he gets the heck beat out of him.
To the rescue comes the maintenance guy in the apartment building in which he lives. Played by Jackie Chan, Mr. Han isn't quite as sage as Mr. Miyagi but he uses almost the same technique (not exactly wax-on-wax-off, paint-the-fence, and sand-the-floor but close). His personal secret remains essentially intact, too, which when discovered by Dre, motivates him to work harder. The role of Dre's mom, played here by Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), is beefed up from the part that Randee Heller played in the original. The young girl, Meiying (Wanwan Han in her first role), looks vaguely like Tamlyn Tomita, who played the love interest in The Karate Kid: Part 2. The rest of the film plays close to the original as well but I won't tell you if he wins (as Daniel LaRusso did in the original) or loses (as Rocky did).
Jaden Smith proves that he may be a force in the business for a long time. His parents, of course, are Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, and they have created a natural. That was evident in The Pursuit of Happiness. Hand it to the kid: he worked really hard to learn kung fu (it's not karate). And while I preferred Ralph Macchio because he was so raw and not talented as an actor, Jaden Smith knows the camera is always there, which I think he will grow out of over time. Jackie Chan is really quite good here, shedding the recent tongue-in-cheek comedy roles. This part fits him perfectly and Morita would have been proud had he lived to see it.
After my disappointments with so many other remakes, I was pleasantly surprised. The director and cast clearly found the balance.
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