In remake world where all dreams come true and sentimentality reigns supreme, comes the 2010 version of The Karate Kid. I assume there was karate in the original (I never saw it or its sequels) but this one is devoid of any - or, as Jackie Chan says, "everything is kung fu."If 12 or under, you'll enjoy this Karate Kid. Otherwise, prepare yourself for disappointment. For no reason whatsoever, single mom (Taraji P. Henson) and her child Dre (Jaden Smith, son of Will) move to China. Jackie Chan plays their maintenance guy who gives kung fu lessons to Dre so he can gain inner peace and defend himself against bullies. Predictability is the name of the game here as we see bullies kicking ass, an evil kung fu academy and a ridiculously cornball kiss. Even the "Feeling Strong Now" montage was weak.
I never got over the feeling that I was watching actors act. Chan as an old master works better than his usual hammy acrobatics, staying serious and heartfelt without doing his grinning imbecile routine. Henson as Dre's mom is just a stereotypical backdrop. Never believable as a 12-year-old, coming-of-age fighting machine, Smith seems like he's showing off in his parents' living room and his stoic pout becomes grating.
As the movie neared a close, I realized I had planned the rest of my weekend. OK, maybe I'm being too harsh on a kid's movie, but this was severe cinematic manipulation with shallow messages and gargantuan sappiness. Suspense is minimal, leading to the grand finale kung fu tournament. The camera zooms and spins around too much. The lame Rocky sequels had more solid fighting scenes than this.
With the exception of Chan's acting restraint, there are no surprises in this cheesy schmaltz fest. I left with only two burning questions: Why did they ever move to China and where's the damn karate?
Starring Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith,
Taraji P. Henson
Directed by Harald Zwart