Movie remakes are a dime a dozen these days and when I heard that one of the classic movies that greatly influenced my childhood was getting a retouch, I admit I was quite apprehensive. The Karate Kid although not really as action packed and flashy as the recent martial arts movies was one of those old movies that stick in your mind. Mr. Miyagi and Daniel san and the whole “wax on, wax off” thing are forever carved on our brains and doing a reboot that will not live up to the original Karate Kid will forever destroy this franchise. So when I watched this movie, I was ready to karate chop some bums already and was not really up for giving it a chance…gladly I was mistaken with my assumptions.
This is actually the first karate kid movie that stars an actual kid, Jaden Smith (who gave a worthy performance on The Pursuit of Happiness and is Will Smith’s son) stars as the main character Dre Parker… who with at start of the movie we see moving to china with his mom. This is of course the original karate kid formula where an American is thrust into an environment that introduces him into an Asian culture and highlights the contrast between his original and current world. Taraji Henson plays his mom who delivers the standard role but can get quite annoying with her voice.
The real stand out here would be Mr. Han, played by Jackie Chan to perfection, who better to step into the role of a master than the legendary Jacky Chan himself. His character although has a similar job like the original Karate Kid’s Mr. Miyagi, has a much more deeper storyline and is a broken character. While Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi was stoic and calculating, Chan’s Mr. Han is reluctant and battling his own demons as we later realize in the film. The chemistry between Jaden and Chan is there and is pretty good, gone are the wax on, wax off days of the old and is replaced with the jacket on, jacket off exercise.
This Karate kid is aimed at a younger audience as evident from the soundtrack and the general cast, but Jacky Chan steals every scene he is in. He is believable as a broken handy man who is also a master martial artist. The training scenes echo some classic scenes on the old karate kid but Jaden who is just a little kid performs really well. You will believe that this kid can kick some bums. The movie itself is not all about the action but more on the relationships and how an outcast kid gains respect while learning values along the way.
Personally I enjoyed this movie and Mr. Miyagi would be proud that his legacy is carried on with respect and with high regard. The only gripe I have with this karate kid is the title itself. “Karate” is a Japanese word which is a type of martial arts developed in Japan, while this whole movie is set in China and the kid learns Kung-fu so I can’t wrap my mind around how the writing staff figured that out. But all in all it was a good movie, some poignant moments mixed with action and some laughs.