While I enjoyed the original, it never was one of those "untouchable classics of my childhood." I mean, I've probably only seen the whole thing 2 or 3 times. Needless to say, I wasn't up in arms about the remake... if you can even call it a remake. It does take the basic plot and structure of the original, but changes everything else. Hell, it's not even Karate; it's Kung Fu (as even Jaden Smith angrily declares to his mother at one point).

For those of you who don't already know, the story follows Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) and his mother (Taraji P. Henson) as they move to Beijing, China once his mother gets a job there. Dre is not happy about this. To escalate his unhappiness, he immediately makes enemies, specifically with a boy named Cheng (Zhenwei Wang) who know Kung Fu. But he also makes a couple friends, including a love interest named Meiying (Wenwen Han). But after Dre gets beat up one too many times, the apartment maintenance man, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), saves Dre from a pack of boys beating the crap out of him. Long story short, Mr. Han is forced to teach Dre Kung Fu after getting him signed up in a Kung Fu Tournament to take on the boys and their Kung Fu dojo.

I know one of the biggest things everybody was worried about was Jaden Smith in the role due to past acting issues (primarily The Day The Earth Stood Still). While there are a couple rough lines here and there, he actually does really well. In fact, there are a couple comedic moments where you can definitely see his father shining through (with timing and delivery). Jackie Chan also does well, taking on a more serious role than he has in quite a few years. He might have one or two funny lines (if that), but for the most part, he plays it straight, and it's interesting to see. He even has a real emotional moment that both he and Jaden handle nicely. There's a really good chemistry between the two. And, of course, Taraji P. Henson is pretty good as Sherry Parker, Dre's mother. As for the rest of the cast? Well...Wenwen Han isn't too bad as the love interest, and Zhenwei Wang is brutal and menacing as the main bully... but everybody else is pretty rough. Granted, there aren't all that many other characters besides the ones I just mentioned, but there are a handful (like Dre's friend in Detroit and Dre's first friend in China) that aren't really all that great.

The action we get is brutal (in a good way). There was more than one occasion where I winced. But Kung Fu is always fun to watch (at least for me). And Jaden made it very believable. The training sequences are a lot of fun, as we should expect. They were the highlight of the original, after all (there are some homages to the original, too, like a moment where Mr. Han is waxing his car... or practicing the crane stance). If there's any negative aspect of the action, it's that the camera really walked that border between tolerable and Bourne Supremacy. It never got too bad, though, as you could almost always tell what was going on. However, there were a couple strange moments where you could almost tell the hit didn't make contact, yet there was still the reaction of being hit.

My biggest problem is that the movie takes almost too long to get going. The movie is nearly two and a half hours, but the first 30 minutes or so is just Jaden either getting beat up, hiding, or trying to flirt with Meiying. I know it's setting up the stage for character connections and development, but I think there might have been just one "Jaden getting beat up" scene too many. By the time Jackie Chan actually stepped in to help, and we began the second act, I had started to get a bit antsy. However, once the second act does start, the movie moves pretty fast and it's all good fun.

Overall, this movie wasn't the disaster most people expected it to be. It was actually a good remake(?). It had good acting (from the leads), a good story, good comedy, and great action. Sure it was highly predictable in almost every aspect, but what else did you expect? It was good entertainment all around.

A Keanu 'Whoa'


  1. Hey Nick, yours is the first review I've seen so I have to ask. Isn't it weird watching a 12-year-old attempt to perpetuate a love story? Daniel in the original was 16, could drive, etc. It made sense that he was also fighting for the girl. Did they just leave out most of the love story aspect or did it just play as innocent?

  2. Maybe it's because I'm a teacher and deal with young "love" all the time, but it wasn't all that weird for me. I think for the most part it just played as innocent. I actually liked the "romance" part of the story, and Jaden was usually at some of his most enjoyable (sans fighting) at these parts.

  3. Thanks for the clarification. It was the first thing I thought of when I heard they were redoing it, and no one seems to have commented on it much.

  4. The acting in this movie was more than I expected. But I confuse why some people cannot accept this movie and rate it very low, in this new Karate Kid, Jackie Chan does a fine job of acting out the reclusive and almost hermit, Mr. Han while Jaden Smith shows that he is indeed an entertainer. Some of the other characters (such as the bullies and master) may be a little over done at times but I suspect the film was trying to set up very black and white boundaries.


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