The Karate Kid is best viewed through the eyes of today’s youth, as opposed to the eyes of aging fans (like me) of the original. I have a soft spot for Ralph Macchio as Daniel san and the late Pat Morita as his mentor, Mr. Miyagi. But alas, the 1980s are over, and this reboot will likely hold its own among a new generation of movie-goers. Its young star, Jaden Smith is graced with the looks and acting instincts of his parents, actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. And if he can keep his head on straight like the original Kid, Ralph Macchio (check out “Wax On, F*ck Off” at FunnyOrDie.com), then junior Smith has quite the career ahead of him.
The plot of The Karate Kid (2010) draws from the basic storylines of both The Karate Kid (1984) and its sequel, The Karate Kid, Part Two (1986) which took place primarily in Japan. For this reboot, Jaden Smith plays 12-year-old Dre Parker, a kid from Detroit who moves to China with his single mother (Taraji P. Henson) when her vague factory job is relocated for some vague reason.
On his first day in China, Dre falls for a pretty classmate but cultural differences get in the way of their budding friendship- as do a bunch of bullies who pummel Dre with some fairly intense kung fu body chops every chance they get. Fortunately, the maintenance guy at Dre’s apartment building is a closet kung-fu master, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), who grudgingly agrees to take Dre on as a student. The heart of the movie is the bond they form as Mr. Han teaches Dre respect and honor (and kick-ass moves) in advance of a kung fu championship tournament where his opponents are taught to show “no mercy.” Boo, hiss!
If you’re a fan of the original, you’ll feel a sense of loss for iconic lines like “sweep the leg” and “wax on, wax off”. But let’s face it, the dialogue doesn’t make or break this type of movie. It’s all about the action, the sentimental Dre-Han bromance, and China’s cultural and scenic gems.
The movie gets off to a rather slow start and the two-and-a-half-hour running time is excessive. But kids in the theater generally seemed to enjoy themselves, though the violence was, at times, a bit much for the youngest among them. All in all, The Karate Kid reboot is a decent-enough flick. But I still like the original better. I’m allowed to wax nostalgic that way. Or is it, “wax on, wax off” nostalgic?