The Karate Kid

Viewed – 06 August 2010  Cinema

I had mixed feelings about this one when it was first announced.  Will Smith’s pint-sized son stepping into the shoes of 80s non-heart throb Ralph Macchio?  But then I saw the trailer, and with Mr Miyagi replaced by non-other than the legendary Jackie Chan – suddenly this was something worth seeing.

Jaden Smith plays Dre, who along with his mother (sadly not Jada Pinkett-Smith) move to China, where he catches the eye of a local girl, much to the disapproval of the local thug and his gang.  Soon he’s getting into fights and coming very much worse off, until the kind old maintenance man (Chan) steps in and agrees to train him for a upcomming kung-fu tournament.  Relocating the story to China works wonderfully rather than the back streets of some American city, and with locations like The Forbidden City and The Great Wall Of China, this makes for a beautiful looking movie.  Jaden Smith has all of his dad’s charm and charisma and certainly carries the movie well, matching Jackie Chan who wisely doesn’t steal the show, with a more subtle but none the less emotional turn that you may not be expecting from an actor more known for comedy action flicks.  The supporting cast however are wafer thin stereotypes with a personality-free, grimacing tough kid villain and a gutsy, over-protective mother we’ve seen a million times.  Thankfully the action, which admittedly is played down for a child-friendly audience still showcases some very impressive martial arts, and the (expected) tournament ending is very well done.  I was hoping that Chan would get a little more screen time as far as his fighting ability is concerned, but apart from one small sequence, we never really see him do his thing.  Yet ultimately this is Smith’s movie who proves himself as a likable lead with obvious talent, and will surely follow in his father’s footsteps if roles like this one keep coming his way.

So to conclude:  a worthy update to a forgotten classic that although adds little new and retains that eighties cheesiness at times, had enough of its own personality to keep me entertained.

Verdict:  3 /5


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