When I first found out that the 1984 film classic, The Karate Kid, was going to be remade, I wasn’t at all excited. We are now in the era of remakes. Classic and cult favorite movies and TV shows are being remade based on new technology.
Unfortunately, many filmmakers rely too heavily on technology and not enough on actual story, plot, acting, directing, or even audience interest. A lot of the recent remakes should not have been remade and have defiled the greatness of the original work. Not so with The Karate Kid. This is a remake that’s worth watching.
Produced by Hollywood A-List powerhouses Will and Jada Pinkett Smith and starring one of their bundles of joy, Jaden, the Smiths put their own urban spin on the film and made it their own.
The storyline has been updated slightly. Sherry Parker (played by Taraji P. Henson) is transferred to Beijing, China, because of her job. Her son, Dre (Smith), is having a hard time adjusting to school because of a bully, Cheng (Zhenwei Wang). Of course, Cheng is bullying Dre because of a girl, Meiying (Wenwen Han). So, the Parkers’ handyman, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), steps in as the father figure for Dre (whose father died) and teaches him the ancient art of Kung Fu, so he can stand up to Cheng.
All in all, Christopher Murphey’s screenplay (with story by Robert Mark Kamen) is a touching story that addresses bullying, which many kids across America suffer every day. The only difference is that in real life, kids carry guns and knives to school to defend themselves; while, Murphey had his protagonist learn the ancient art of Kung Fu — which is based on peace, not violence.
Murphey cleverly provided the bare bones for a great children’s film with director Harald Zwart at the helm, steering the film into being quite entertaining while tugging on the heart strings.
There is, however, quite a bit of violence for this to be a kids’ movie. The blows that the children in the film receive made me cringe; which included landing on concrete, hard blows to the limbs, and even harsher blows to the face. This is fictional, so these little actors are taking a licking and keep on ticking; but in real life, such blows would cause serious injury. Parents should be careful that their children don’t try to act out at home what they’ve seen in The Karate Kid.
In the acting department, little Smith has Daddy Will all over him — up to and including his walk and dialogue style. I’m sure Jaden would like to be critiqued based on his own merit and not compared to his father. But, this isn’t always a fair society, and his father is too much of a superstar not to cause comparison. Jaden is a good actor, nonetheless.
Chan as Mr. Han actually shows range in this film. His character taps into true emotion and I got to see another side of Chris Tucker‘s Rush Hour sidekick. Needless to say, Chan can do more than just perform really difficult martial arts moves.
Henson as Sherry is the typical African-American mother, trying to be there for her son while giving him his space. I’m sure being a real-life mother helped. Thankfully, her character wasn’t the “ghetto” African-American mother often portrayed in Hollywood. I like that Henson’s character opens her mind to Chinese culture.
Last, but not least, hair department head Camille Friend deserves an honorable mention for Meiying’s hair. The style is unusual, but I couldn’t help but admire it in each of Meiying’s scenes. The hair almost became a character in itself.
All in all, I should not have doubted the Smiths’ judgment when it comes to films. Even though this is a remake of a classic that’s fine the way it is, The Karate Kid is quite entertaining and could stand on its own as a great film — and not a remake.