Can a boy from “da hood” become a Kung Fu prodigy? The answer is a resounding YES! in the remake of the 1984 classic “The Karate Kid.” Our story takes place in Beijing, China as young Dre Parker (played by the heir to the movie-making Will Smith dynasty, Jaden Smith) and his no-nonsense mom (played by the always plucky Taraji P. Henson) adjust to life in a culturally different land (although they did have Sponge bob Square pants on TV). Dre is a reluctant participant in the move, but with the death of his father, “there’s nothing left for us in Detroit” says his mother. So Dre must accept his new home.
However, his new home doesn’t readily accept him in the form of Cheng, a classmate from school. Cheng is a budding martial arts talent and junior sadist with a penchant for pain. His equally cruel teacher, Master Li, runs a martial arts school where the mantra is “No Mercy.” Cheng takes the mantra to heart as he and his friends terrorize Jaden at school. Jaden finds solace in the friendship (and budding romance) from a young violin prodigy who finds Jaden “funny” and tries to protect him against Cheng.
But when Jaden enacts a measure of payback against his foe, it nearly costs him his life if not for the intervention of Mr. Han (Jackie Chan, in a more serious turn from his usually jovial self). Without giving away the entire plot, Mr. Han decides to teach Dre the art of Kung Fu to fight in a tournament against Li’s students. Dre is put through his paces and by tournament time, he is executing techniques that would make Bruce Lee proud. And of course, the story ends on a positive note.
I brought my son to see the movie and he was mesmerized by the training and fight sequences. As a martial arts buff, I, too was pulled in by the action as well as the growing bond between Dre and Han. By the end of the movie, the crowd was cheering as Dre put on an impressive display of artistry. This was definitely a “feel good” film.
I give “The Karate Kid” a 4.5 out of 5. The only criticism I have is that the movie ran a bit too long (140 mins) and some scenes could have been shortened or spiced up (the scene between Dre and his mom arguing over the China move was a bit awkward and could have been beefed up).
Check out “The Karate Kid.” It’s a real KICK!