This is the awaited remake of the 1984 John Avildsen classic, this time Daniel-San is now Dre (played by Jaden Smith) and instead of moving with his mom (Taraji P Henson) from the East Coast to the West Coast, they move from Detroit to Beijing.
Being there he struggles to fit in, and is bullied, and, well it follows pretty much the same pattern as the original – replacing Karate with Kung Fu, replacing Mr Miyagi with Mr Han, and replacing Elizabeth Shue’s character with “Meiling” played by Wenwen Han.
This is not a terrible movie, but it’s so hard to live up to the performances of the 80’s classic. You feel as if Jaden Smith as Dre is trying to find his stride in the beginning, but finds it as the movie goes on. As much as I love Jackie Chan who is perfectly cast here, there is not enough of him in this movie to develop the character the way Pat Morita gave his Oscar nominated performance as Mr Miyagi. And who can dismiss the power of the score from the original Bill Conti – James Horner’s music is adequate, but the tournament sequence is not the same without “You’re the Best Around” by Joe Esposito as cheesy as it may seem.
The antagonists are a plus in this movie, young Zhenwei Wang is stellar as the “Johnny” character named Cheng, and Rongguang Yu as Master Li embodies evil. What this rendition is not able to capture in heart, is made up for in the fighting – the sequences of fighting are a lot more intense here than the original.
I cannot help thinking about this one being more of a money making venture for tourism in China, and the keeping of the title as a reference point even though there is no Karate in it. Not bad, just not Karate Kid.