The Karate Kid (2010)

The Karate Kid
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Martial arts violence

Director: Harald Zwart
Actors: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson, Wenwen Han

Twelve-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) could've been the most popular kid in Detroit, but his mother's (Taraji P Henson) latest career move has landed him in China. Dre immediately falls for his classmate Mei Ying - and the feeling is mutual - but cultural differences make such a friendship impossible. Even worse, Dre's feelings make an enemy of the class bully, and kung fu prodigy, Cheng. 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 The karate. As Han teaches Dre that The karate is not about punches and parries, but maturity and calm, Dre realizes that facing down the bullies will be the fight of his life.

DVD
Status: QuickPick
Run time: 140mins
Origin: UNITED STATES
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Jaden charms the jaded
by Simon Miraudo,

Why do we become so attached to films? Why do even the most sensible movie watchers and film reviewers equate remakes of Fright Night and Footloose with sins of the highest degree? What is that indelible molecule that ties our fond memories of childhood to seemingly inconsequential movies about intrepid explorers, magic babies, or even karate kids? It’s called ‘nostalgia’, dummy (yes, I just called myself ‘dummy’). To quote Mad Men’s Don Draper (which I live to do), nostalgia can be translated to mean “the pain from an old wound”. Recently, a whole bunch of Gen X’s are enduring the pain of old wounds being reopened with the never-ending onslaught of 80s movie remakes. The latest is Harald Zwart’s The Karate Kid, a beat-for-beat (no pun intended) do-over of John G. Avildson’s 1984 classic ...

Why do we become so attached to films? Why do even the most sensible movie watchers and film reviewers equate remakes of Fright Night and Footloose with sins of the highest degree? What is that indelible molecule that ties our fond memories of childhood to seemingly inconsequential movies about intrepid explorers, magic babies, or even karate kids? It’s called ‘nostalgia’, dummy (yes, I just called myself ‘dummy’). To quote Mad Men’s Don Draper (which I live to do), nostalgia can be translated to mean “the pain from an old wound”. Recently, a whole bunch of Gen X’s are enduring the pain of old wounds being reopened with the never-ending onslaught of 80s movie remakes.

The latest is Harald Zwart’s The Karate Kid, a beat-for-beat (no pun intended) do-over of John G. Avildson’s 1984 classic of the same name. Instead of a teenage Ralph Macchio learning to crane kick in Los Angeles, we have a tweenage Jaden Smith kicking the kung-fooey out of bullies in China. Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) has been replaced by Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), a similarly disgruntled maintenance man with a surprising martial arts proficiency. Aside from that, the scenes from either movie might as well be interchangeable – something that will either give fans of the original some solace, or infuriate them further.

Having only watched the original Karate Kid recently (in preparation for the remake), I was surprised at how well it held up 26 years after release. Sure, it’s no work of genius. But it was a solid coming-of-age story that was genuinely inspiring, exciting and – thanks to the wonderful performances from Macchio and Morita – heartfelt. I was similarly surprised to find myself enjoying Zwart’s Karate Kid just as much, for many of the same reasons. This is no rush job. The Karate Kid 2010 is a thoughtful and professionally executed remake, retaining everything that really mattered about the original – specifically the sincere relationship between the young protégé and his mentor.

Young Dre (Smith) and his mother (Taraji P. Henson) head to Beijing after she is let go from her factory job in Detroit. Sadly, there is little commentary here on the state of industrial America in the face of the unstoppable Chinese production machine, but never mind. Dre struggles to fit in, and eventually finds himself the target of some particularly kung-fu capable bullies. After a particularly disastrous beat-down (the film is shockingly eager to show children kicking the living cheese out of one another), Dre is rescued by Mr. Han (Chan), who offers to educate him in the ways of true kung-fu and teach all those misguided menaces, as well as their unnecessarily evil master, a real lesson.

Yes, if you’ve seen the original, you know exactly how things are going to go down this time around. But I welcome this remake, which is easily one of the best, most wholly satisfying family films of late. Devoid of dumb humour, and unexpectedly soulful, The Karate Kid Redux is certain to become a favourite amongst youngsters in the same way as the original encouraged teenagers to sign up for martial arts lessons. Screenwriter Christopher Murphey and Zwart deserve much of the credit, but the film is truly elevated by the chemistry between the stars. Jaden Smith, an actor whom I once called “absolutely, unflinchingly, irredeemably terrible”, is rather charming here, and yes, a chip off the old block. Chan struggles valiantly in the shadow of Morita’s Miyagi, and although he forges a less-memorable character, he gets the job done. That being said, his one and only fight scene proves that there are fewer things more electrifying in cinema than watching a Jackie Chan action sequence.

It’s hard to say whether or not this Karate Kid is better than the original (although I suppose the mere act of comparison is compliment enough). This new version comes close to hitting the two-and-a-half hour mark, leading to the occasional eyeing of the exit. However, it expands upon many of the underdeveloped characters in the original, particularly that of the mother (played here wonderfully by the always-excellent Henson). The legendary "wax on, wax off" sequence is replaced here with the less catchy "take your jacket off, put your jacket back on". THEN AGAIN, it does feature a more realistic version of oriental magic that can cure disastrous injuries. In the end, I guess both will likely be embraced by those who watched it while growing up. As a somewhat impartial observer – too young when the original came out, too old for the remake – let me state that both are immensely enjoyable, and perhaps the latter is even good enough to justify all future 80s remakes. Except Labyrinth. No need to bring David Bowie’s tight pants back any time soon.

3.5/5

P.S. Despite being called The Karate Kid, this is purely a kung-fu film. Do not assume that the entire movie is as culturally insensitive as its title.

Check out Simon's other reviews here.

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Member Reviews (55)

Boring. Watch the original.
Posted Wednesday, 15 January 2014 See my other reviews
Steve
says
Cheap copy of original, except in china. Original far better. As if this Chinese girl from a "good Chinese family" would fall for an American. The kids lied it though.
Posted Sunday, 19 August 2012 See my other reviews
Ad
says
Good family movie. For those who know the original dont expect the ssame
Posted Monday, 9 July 2012 See my other reviews
n/a
says
why is jacki chan so un realistic in every movie, no i wont kick him in his head ill flick a glass with my foot into him while im jumping around then run like a scared rabbit
Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 See my other reviews
Josh
says
It certainly isn't as memorable as the original classic from 1984, but this remake of The Karate Kid has enough material to stand on its own regardless of how it compares to the original. I'd recommend seeing the original first, but if you like that movie, definitely see this one too. It's not perfect, but it where it works, it works really well.
Posted Monday, 6 February 2012 See my other reviews
CJ
says
OK retake, but personally, prefer the original..
Posted Sunday, 5 February 2012 See my other reviews
Dee
says
Great motivational story, which may change anyone's life.
Posted Sunday, 9 October 2011 See my other reviews
SB
says
Not as good as the original and very slow moving. The movie pointlessly goes on for over two hours. We all know how it's going to end so why not squeeze it into 90 minutes.
Posted Tuesday, 27 September 2011 See my other reviews
Megs
says
I loved the original Karate Kid film and was quite disappointed with this Kungfu Kid remake. The kid in this one seemed too young which made the bully fight scenes extra brutal and the girlfriend scenes just silly. Would rather watch Ralph Macchio and Mr Miyagi any time!
Posted Tuesday, 30 August 2011 See my other reviews
jan gabriel
says
stop around every 15min so i had to run though a bit till started again
Posted Friday, 26 August 2011 See my other reviews
B
says
Excellent family movie
Posted Wednesday, 10 August 2011 See my other reviews
Sue H
says
This is a surprise on how good it is
Posted Tuesday, 26 July 2011 See my other reviews
John
says
Thoroughly enjoyed this movie
Posted Sunday, 24 July 2011 See my other reviews
Mary D
says
same plot as original; Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan pulled it off. Great kiddie movie.
Posted Tuesday, 12 July 2011 See my other reviews
Katie
says
A very fun movie as with all Jacky Chan movies he is the best
Posted Monday, 11 July 2011 See my other reviews
donna
says
this movie started abit slow but really got into it. well done for a family movie.
Posted Thursday, 7 July 2011 See my other reviews
Cassie
says
Not as good as the original but the kids definately enjoyed it more than the old one. Great movie overall, loved it.
Posted Friday, 1 July 2011 See my other reviews
Mina
says
A fantastic movie especially for thoes who are new to a place or compelled to integrate with a new system .Beautiful scenic Beijing with strong photography moves you along and shakes you when the young kid makes a lot of effort to be sturdy and resilient when the tough uptight youngesters decide not to let him in their heart or society. He only finds comfort in beating his fear even if despite all the odds.He brings pride to a fellow person who had lost the game some years ago.
Posted Thursday, 30 June 2011 See my other reviews
Dennis
says
A good movie for the kids, they enjoyed it.
Posted Sunday, 26 June 2011 See my other reviews
david
says
This is a movie that just didn't need to be remade! The original stands as far superior with an enduring appeal. Less than charismatic performances all round in this abomination of a remake.
Posted Friday, 17 June 2011 See my other reviews
michelle
says
average..a bit too much to show how kids are hurting each other
Posted Thursday, 16 June 2011 See my other reviews
balmoralc@bigpond
says
fantastic really enjoyed the movie
Posted Friday, 10 June 2011 See my other reviews
Maree S.
says
Not bad actually, my son hired this then us parents ended up watching it. A great story line even if your not into karate.
Posted Thursday, 2 June 2011 See my other reviews
John P
says
Good movie provides interest in themes of Karate / chinese culture, in an Americanised way.
Posted Friday, 27 May 2011 See my other reviews
merv7
says
just a remake of the original
Posted Thursday, 26 May 2011 See my other reviews
Jeffrey
says
Just as good as the original.
Posted Wednesday, 18 May 2011 See my other reviews
KrisP
says
I really like this movie. Very similar to the original but with different actors.. Jackie Chan is fantastic yet again and the boy is extremely talented!!
Posted Tuesday, 17 May 2011 See my other reviews
K
says
Not bad - a little too serious for a kids film though. Not as good as the originals.
Posted Thursday, 12 May 2011 See my other reviews
ScotchMick
says
A decent enough update of the original but whilst the original had moody teens this has huffy 10 year olds. Seeing kids fighting the way they do in this movie is not only a little unrealistic bit mildly disturbing, as is the love story.. Will Smith's son does well though, definetely a watchable film.
Posted Monday, 9 May 2011 See my other reviews
Antony D
says
I have seen the other Karate KId movies and thisone was just as good as the others! I knew the story, but the acting and carate scenes were just excellent... The cute love story, the secret of mr chan (mr HAN).. they were beautiful twistes to make the movie very entertaining!
Posted Saturday, 7 May 2011 See my other reviews
Frank
says
Not as good as the original but enjoyable either way :-)
Posted Friday, 6 May 2011 See my other reviews
Super mUM
says
Good movie, would have probably enjoyed it more had we not already seen all the original Karate Kid movies! Some great life lessons especially if you are small for your age, a must see!
Posted Thursday, 5 May 2011 See my other reviews
Nina Ricci
says
The Karate Kid was consuming watching, but I felt the main actor could have been more musculine. With all the training provided the Karate Kid's physique remained unchanged.
Posted Wednesday, 4 May 2011 See my other reviews
dh
says
test
Posted Tuesday, 3 May 2011 See my other reviews
Lori
says
Excellent Movie
Posted Tuesday, 3 May 2011 See my other reviews
JenP
says
It's just not karate!
Posted Monday, 2 May 2011 See my other reviews
M
says
Surprisingly good. I loved the original so i was ready to be annoyed by the remake but little Smith is quite good and damn fit! Some of the differences from the original were good others not so much but that's to be expected. Worth a look
Posted Friday, 29 April 2011 See my other reviews
Danielle
says
Was a bit slow in the beginning, but got better, I watched with my 12 year old and he thought the same.
Posted Wednesday, 13 April 2011 See my other reviews
Jennifer
says
We are not karate/kung fu fans, but this movie is so much more than that! The Jackie Chan directed movie's treatment of many facets of human nature, coupled with spectacular visions of modern China, post the Olympics is enjoyable to anyone who has the slightest interest in that fascinating country, its people and the interactions of people. Enjoyable, despite it's length, fans of the original will identify with the familiar and find interesting the new developments not seen in the Japanese version of this movie.
Posted Monday, 28 March 2011 See my other reviews
Damian C
says
though some lines n thyme is still the orig with pat, this is one of the finest movies jack's ever made, less comedy then he is know for, he plays the part of just a man, fighting internal demons yet having the knowledge and ability to teach a young guy not only martial arts but respect for himself his mother and how to hang up his cloths lol
Posted Wednesday, 23 March 2011 See my other reviews
Amanda
says
Wasnt as great as i thought it would be. Still ok though.
Posted Wednesday, 23 March 2011 See my other reviews
J Hayward
says
Has a real story to tell great movie
Posted Sunday, 13 March 2011 See my other reviews
phil
says
Saw the other series, very similar but good
Posted Wednesday, 9 March 2011 See my other reviews
brian skomba
says
good family movie
Posted Wednesday, 2 March 2011 See my other reviews
movie guy
says
This new verison of The Karate kis is really better than the original. Obviously talented martial artists were used as actors. The teenager who played the bully has won many martial arts competitions since he started training as a 3 1/2 year old. Jackie chan is as always, brilliant in his stunts, MA, and quality acting. He actually sheds tears in this movie. There are funny moments that are connected to the first movie and also there is this movie's own original repetative chore (instead of "wax on, wax off" and "paint the fence") that makes the karate kid wonder when he will learn some fighting skills while his body is in fact already being trained without his awareness.
Posted Tuesday, 1 March 2011 See my other reviews
ginafergie
says
Interesting, not much story but the acting of the young boy was really good. Jackie Chan was a bit of a flop as an actor and I did miss his usual outtakes. Worth seeing though, light entertainment and the kids will loveit.
Posted Wednesday, 23 February 2011 See my other reviews
nat
says
good watch. would be better if there was not an original. It should have been called Kung Fu Kid.
Posted Friday, 18 February 2011 See my other reviews
Nathan
says
I thought this was a good movie
Posted Wednesday, 16 February 2011 See my other reviews
Carol
says
Enjoyed it only because I loved the original, needed its own story to close to the original movie
Posted Sunday, 13 February 2011 See my other reviews
Christos
says
Not one of the best re-imaginings of a classic, but Hollywood can't help themselves, can they..?? Passable, but Karate is NOT Kung Fu! Let the classics be!
Posted Saturday, 15 January 2011 See my other reviews
R. McEvoy
says
I found this really funny, more enjoyable then the original. I dont like Jaden Smith, he struts around like he is already a big thing, hes got along way to come before his is as good of an actor as Will Smith. Not many movies storyline can ajust well to modern day reboots, where as this was well done. Mainly watched it for Jackie Chan this shows he can actually act. One thing wrong with this though ITS NOT KARATE!!!
Posted Friday, 7 January 2011 See my other reviews
Sally C
says
If you're a fan of the original you will not like this re-make. It's not karate - it's 'kung-fu'. However for those who have not seen the original 1984 version. I'm sure you'll enjoy this as a stand alone film.
Posted Friday, 17 December 2010 See my other reviews
Marg
says
Certainly not in the same league as the original which is pretty much a cult classic these days but still a great effort and a great job by both Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. It didn't have quite the same emotional journey that the original took you on but still really enjoyed this version.
Posted Friday, 17 December 2010 See my other reviews
Luisa E
says
This was really well done. Same story line but done in a different way. Defintely worth seeing. They really got it right with this one.
Posted Sunday, 18 July 2010 See my other reviews
Great Movie
says
Awsome!! just wanna watch it over and over again. Has all sorts of genres!!
Posted Thursday, 15 July 2010 See my other reviews