The re-invented version of The Karate Kid is the shining star in a long line of Hollywood remakes. With more action and realism than the original, the 2010 version of the classic tale tells of ancient martial arts bringing together two lost souls in need of a strong father/son type of bond.
The story line revolves around twelve-year-old Dre Parker, played by Jaden Smith (son of producers Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith), who is forced to relocate to Beijing with his single mother (Taraji P. Henson). He is rescued from the school bullies by Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), through the art of honour and kung fu.
This isn’t the first big movie the smaller Smith has been in, but it does seem to be the one that was designed to bring him in the spotlight – and the younger version of Big Willie pulls it off with little effort. His portrayal of Dre was believable and heartfelt. We felt his pain, anger and victory every step of the way – even more so than we did for Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) in the 1984 original.
One of the big concerns I had when this movie was announced was that Jackie Chan would try to rework the beloved Mr. Miyagi character from the original film. Could you image Chan adding his comedic flavor to the classic Pat Morita Miyagi? God no! Instead, Chan gave us a completely new character with his take on Mr. Han. Chan teaches the young American how to defend himself without violence and gives an Academy Award Winning performance as he walks us through the personal rebirth of Mr. Han. It’s a role unlike anything Chan has played in the past and it’s the first time we’ve seen a Chan character that isn’t lighthearted and optimistic.
The scenes with Dre and Mr. Han allow Chan and Smith to bond and build a relationship that rivals most of the regular father and son movie relationships. They work great together and show that the movie is not only about Dre’s happiness and health, but also about Mr. Han’s rehabilitation.
Director Harald Zwart gave new insight into a story that didn’t sway much from the original plot. The film’s look was a little darker than the original, with more rain scenes for example, but it was the intensity of the bullying and fight scenes that gave the remake some much needed life. It’s not often I feel someone’s pain in a movie, but he left me feeling Dre’s bumps and bruises. It made the film all that more believable.
As far as Karate Kid movies go, this is the definitive edition and should not be missed.