Jaden Smith, left, and Jackie Chan star in "The Karate Kid." (Courtesy photo)
Movie Review: 'The Karate Kid'
Remake has better fights, decent acting, but fails to move out of the shadow of original movie
By Joe Nguyen, AsiaXpress.com
June 10, 2010
"The Karate Kid"
Rated PG for bullying, martial arts action violence and some mild language.
Dir. Harald Kwart
Cast: Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith
Time: 112 min.
"The Karate Kid" opens wide on June 11
• Fun fight sequences
• Solid acting
• Runs long at times
• Constant comparisons to original
Jackie Chan has often played the role of the talented, yet brash martial arts pupil who doesn't realize his true potential until he discovers a mentor who is able to lead him to the right path.
In a reversal of roles, Chan takes on the mantle of the master to Jaden Smith's student in director Harald Kwart's "The Karate Kid." This latest piece in Hollywood's seemingly endless string of remakes certainly carries its share of flaws, but ends up being a fairly entertaining watch with fun fight sequences and surprisingly solid acting.
The story focuses on 12-year-old Dre (Smith), a kid from Detroit who moves to China and gets hassled by bullies. He finds an unlikely martial arts mentor in his apartment's maintenance man, Mr. Han (Chan). From Han's tutelage, Dre learns valuable lessons not just about kung fu, but life.
The most obvious flaw with this film is its title as the focus of the film is about kung fu, not karate. Probably trying to draw from the original's popularity, the writers seemed to know about the mistake but didn't care. In one scene, Dre's mom (played by Taraji P. Henson) says, "karate, kung fu – what's the difference?"
The fight sequences were well done and a vast improvement over what was shown in the previous four incarnations. Easily the best fight is between the bullies and Chan early in the film. Even at 56, Chan continues to flawlessly intertwine humor with awe in his action scenes.
The strength of the film resided in 11-year-old Smith's performance. While not flawless – there were parts where he seemed reserved and unsure about how to approach his lines – he exuded a natural charisma, something shared by his famous father Will. This is a big contrast from his atrocious and annoying performance in "The Day the Earth Stood Still."
Chan had one of his best performances in an American-made film and was able to show off his naturally funny side instead of playing the straight man for American comedians. Though at times it seems like he couldn't decide whether he wanted to be more stoic and Miyagi-like or if he wanted to just be Jackie Chan.
Coming into the movie, I didn't have the highest of expectations. Remakes rarely live up to their original counterparts and good remakes of movies that are embedded in pop culture are even more rare. The original "Karate Kid" was a little cheesy, but fun and inspirational. This one shares, obviously, many of the same attributes. However in the end, Smith and Chan are not Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita, and the villains are no Cobra Kai.
Two and a half out of four stars.