Taraji P. Henson
US Certificate: PG
Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) and his mom (Taraji P. Henson) are leaving behind all they know in Detroit for her new job in Chinaand Dre is none too happy. Things begin to look up when he meets a girl, but said girl is under the watchful eye of mean prepubescent bully Cheng (Zhenwei Wang), whos being trained for future Kung Fu bullydom by a slightly sociopathic teacher. Luckily, Dre has his own Kung Fu Master (Jackie Chan) living right around the cornerso let the training begin!
Let me start by confessing that I have a deep nostalgic love for The Karate Kid of the 80s. Way back when VCRs were considered newfangled, I went to my friend Loris house and her mom gave me Cherry Coke and peanut butter cookies while we watched it. Since then, few movie villains have measured up to the smarmy duo of evil that was Johnny Lawrence and his Sensei (William Zabka and Martin Kove). Daniel, Mr. Miyagi, flies being caught with chopsticks, Sweep the leg!these are all strangely sacred childhood memories for gaggles of people. So Ill just take a deep breath and say this I loved the remake.
Now, before anyone starts throwing things at me, let me first offer a few disclaimers and caveats to my love. For one, the reboot is WAY too long at almost 140 minutes and could have easily been edited to include shorter montages. Then theres the whole title thingI mean, I get that they wanted to remake The Karate Kid, but the criticism that by using Karate and not Kung Fu in the title, theyre just reinforcing Asian stereotypes is valid. All that aside, though, once you get used to the idea of the kids being a younger set than Ralph Macchio and Co., theres much to be enjoyed. Who knew Jackie Chan was a good actor? Its strange seeing him so subtle and thoughtful, but he has a perfect balance with Smith, who mega-parents or not, would have won this role on merit. Hes funny without being precocious, and when he pulls off his Kung Fu moves, he actually looks surprised, which is endearing. The whole production is a better than usual combination of what made the original a classic and new twists (China is a beautiful country, and theres a whole added mystique with it in the background), and minus the lulls and the couple of sappy hug moments, its a worthy remake that makes me wish horror folks would take a note and learn how to re-imagine without destroying.
It's Got: Really good casting, Cool Kung Fu action, A different side of Jackie Chan
It Needs: To be shorter, A different title (Kung Fu? Hello?)
Both an homage to the original and a franchise for a new generation, this re-invention is full of action and strong performances, if not a bit too long.