Plot: A remake of a beloved 80’s classic about a teenage boy befriended by an old man who teaches him martial arts.
Cast: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Han Wenwen, Wang Zhenwei, Taraji P. Henson
Bottom Line: **
By Laurence Washington
I could rain on this remake of the 80’s classic “Karate Kid,” but that would be too easy. So I’m just going to sprinkle a little. I wish Hollywood would leave the classics alone and come up with some new ideas. Also, Hollywood should properly title their motion pictures, because Jackie Chan doesn’t teach Jaden Smith Karate in this film. He teaches him Kung Fu. So why not name this picture the “Kung Fu Kid?” I guess that would be too much like doing right.
This new version of the “Karate Kid” takes place in China. Jaden Smith, son of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, plays Dre Parker the new kid on the block in Beijing via Detroit after his mother’s job transfers her to China. Of course, Dre hates Beijing – especially since a gang of students enjoy using him as Kung Fu punching bag.
What I mean is, Dre hates Beijing until he meets Meiying (Han Wenwen) a cute young violinist who befriends him at school. Of course the school bully, Cheng (Wang Zhenwei) takes exception to Dre’s interest in Meiying, and the after school beatings intensify until the reclusive janitor Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), in Dre’s apartment’s saves Dre from his daily beatings.
Mr. Han agrees to teach Dre Kung Fu after trying to reason with Cheng’s sadistic and brutal Kung Fu teacher, Master Li (Yu Rongguang Yu). Li’s believe it’s OK for kids to beat each other up and show no mercy. The film ends with a climactic Kung Fu championship tournament match between Dre and Cheng.
The filmmakers tried to freshen up the “wax on, wax off” scene for people who remember the original film and offer a red herring with Mr. Han parking an old car in his living room that’s begging for a paint and wax job.
The film runs on about 30 minutes too long, however, it is lovely to look at and the Chinese locations including the Great Wall are engaging and breathtaking.
However, I think if there is a important moral to this story it is, don’t mess with the classics, even if the producers (Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith) are your father and mother.