Karate Kid

It may not be “use the force”, but the phrase “wax on, wax off” has stood the test of time in popular culture and cinematic fame. Would the newest Karate Kid film do the same? Could I stomach another ghastly remake in a year that seems endlessly full of them? Well, I am happy to report that I didn’t have to.

Jaden Smith crafts an engaging portrayal of the lead character, Dre Parker, a kid trying to fit in and make friends as an African-American in China. Equally impressive was Jackie Chan as maintenance man by day, Kung Fu master by night, Mr. Han. Chan’s performance was surprisingly dramatic and, for once, did not entirely center on his undeniable martial arts appeal. Don’t get me wrong, the martial arts are in there but for Chan this film displays his tenure as a veteran of the big screen.

It seems there is only one thing that could have been better: Tarji P. Hensen who played Dre’s dopey mom, Sherry Parker. No parent could seem this self-absorbed and unaware of a situation yet maintain wholesome parental figure status, and the acting was poor to boot. Overshadowing Hensen’s lame interjections was Dre’s adorable love interest, Meiying (played by Wenwen Han). The performance of Meiying managed to captured not only Dre’s heart but also that of the entire audience while staying on the film’s well-plotted course.

“The Karate Kid” is emotionally charged and action packed, there is really no denying it. And so what if the whole thing also looks a lot like a tourist film for China, the great landscapes and classic shots only add to the imagery.
Film buffs and fans of the original Karate Kid series will enjoy the mix of subtly-placed and more blatant references to the original films. Better yet it quickly becomes clear that Jackie Chan is not trying to top the legendary performance of Pat Morita but manages to prove that the story we all got so wrapped up in 1984 is still relevant in today’s modern world.

4.5 stars out of 5