I’m sure it’s heretical in some corners — and likely a sign of ill-breeding from my childhood — but I’ve never seen The Karate Kid (1984) despite being the age where this should’ve been a part of my youth. But let’s say for a second that I had been weened on Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita would this affect my opinion of this latest incarnation? Would I be wailing and gnashing teeth at Hollywood’s ruination of my childhood? No. The idea that one movie could sully someone’s childhood is just silly — and one that indicates it wasn’t much of a childhood to begin with. But really, its about the mootest of points since this Karate Kid, besides similarities in their basic plots, is a remake in name only. Maybe the most interesting aspect of the movie is how it goes out of its way to play against expectations. It’s pointed out pretty early in the film that there’s no karate going on here; it’s all kung-fu. Not just this, but it’s almost refreshing to find a remake, reboot, or whatever this is, that’s not obsessed with in-jokes and references. Don’t mistake this Karate Kid for some bastion of originality. The movie is your basic uplifting sports flick, and it’s not too far off from the original’s plot: a young boy (Jaden Smith) learns martial arts from an old man (Jackie Chan) in an attempt to stop bullies, with it all culminating in a fighting tournament. The only huge difference is that this time around, the setting’s been shifted to China. The movie still works within the confines of its limited aims, passing the “if I were a 10-year-old, would I find this awesome?” litmus test with ease. Plus, it’s nice to see Jackie Chan get to actually act for a change.
Director: Harald Zwart
Writer: Michael Soccio
Producer: James Lassiter, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, Ken Stovitz and Jerry Weintraub
Cast: Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith and Taraji P. Henson