KARATE KID - To Honour Jackie Chan
THE KARATE KID (kungfu drama)
Cast: Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith, Taraji P. Henson, Han Wenwen and Wang Zhenwei
Director: Harald Zwart
Screenplay: Christopher Murphey
Time: 140 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)
PREAMBLE: If there is any valid reason for this remake of the 1984 Pat Morita movie it is to honour Jackie Chan in the role of kid's kungfu mentor. And yes, with Jackie in the flick, you should have sussed it out by now that it is the Kungfu Kid rather than the Karate Kid. Call it the Karate Kid: Foreign Exchange Version.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) is forced to move from Detroit to Beijing when his mother (Taraji P. Henson) is transferred to China. The 12-year-old Dre falls for his violinist classmate Mei Ying (Han Wenwen) but cultural differences make such a friendship impossible. Even worse, Dre's feelings make an enemy of Cheng (Wang Zhenwei), the class bully and kungfu prodigy.
With no friends in a strange land, Dre has nowhere to turn but maintenance man Mr Han (Jackie Chan), who is secretly a master of kungfu. As Han teaches Dre that kungfu is not about punches and parries, but maturity and calm, Dre realizes that facing down the bullies will be the fight of his life.
HITS & MISSES: Although the film-makers pay suitable tribute to its predecessor (like having Mr Han forcing Dre to repeatedly put on and remove his jacket in lieu of the original's car-waxing sequence), this remake offers more in terms of locations, scenery and cinematography.
Next, it is the charms of the two leads, Chan and Smith. It is easy to root for Jackie in such a mentor role where he is definitely comfortable in. Just look at how much he is enjoying himself in the father-son relationship. As for Smith, it is difficult to believe that he is in real danger from the bully but we still sympathise with him (especially when we have seen him in The Pursuit of Happyness (which he starred with his father Will). And the most important thing is that the two have screen chemistry.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A worthwhile remake.