Saturday, January 8, 2011

Karate Kid 2010

Director: Harold Zwart
Produced by Will and Jada Pinkett Smith
Starring: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P Henson, Wen Wen Han,  Zhenwei Wang
Released in theatre: 2010  Now available on DVD and BluRay
Running Time: 140 mins
Rated: PG
Filmed in Beijing, China

Karate Kid opens with Dre (Jaden Smith) looking over his newly vacant bedroom, the growth chart on the wall that also marks the death of his father and the upcoming move to China.  Dre's mom, Sherry Parker (Taraji P. Henson), is transferred to China for a job in the automotive industry, so she and Dre pack up their household and fly some 6000 miles away, to find a new life in China.

The transistion is difficult for Dre as he enters the school system with uniform day and very few who speak English.  He meets a pretty girl,  Mei Ying, a fellow student and violinist.  They share a mutual attraction but Cheng, the school bully, takes offense to this and, through karate, determines to put Dre in his place.  After Dre comes home with a black eye, he finds ways to avoid Cheng and his gang.  However, that lasts only so long when one day the gang corners Dre in an alley and beat him up.  To the rescue comes Mr. Han, the Parker's building maintenance man, taking on all the boys and defeating them in fantastic manner. At Dre's request, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) reluctantly teaches Dre the art of karate which takes them to a tournament where Dre must face his enemy. 

I was waiting for the literal "wax on, wax off" which never came but one could easily imagine it as part of young Dre's training.  Jackie Chan, still as flexible and as much a person to be reckoned with as ever, plays his role as mentor and friend admirably.  Young Jaden Smith, son of Will Smith (both starred in The Pursuit of Happiness), is an incredible up and coming young actor.  Several times throughout the movie I noted the likeness between father and son.  They share similar expressions, mannerisms, and the ability to tell a story that draws the audience in. 

At first I was like many critics, asking why we need another Karate Kid (original 1984).  It was all a little overdone in the 80's with the sequels.  But this new version has crediblity and great acting skill that carries it into 2010 and beyond.  If there is one thing I didn't like about this rendition, it was the intimate relationship between Dre and Mei Ying.  It is not unheard of for children of 12 to develop attractions for the opposite sex but for a movie aimed at children perhaps 10 and up, the kissing scene was too much. 

All in all, I liked this version just as much as the original.  Rated 4.5/5

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