The Karate Kid Review

Published 4 years ago by , Updated June 26th, 2010 at 4:44 pm,

the karate kid review The Karate Kid Review
Screen Rant’s Vic Holtreman reviews The Karate Kid

What’s going on here? Two movies released in one weekend that are remakes of beloved source material from the 80s (there’s this and The A-Team)? Well The A-Team passed the test and now it’s time to see whether this reincarnation of the original Karate Kid which starred Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita way back in 1984 measures up.

With this film we’ve had yet another case of “don’t ruin my childhood” screams from denizens of the internet. While like many of you, I have my favorites that I believe should NEVER be touched in an attempt to milk some cash from a familiar name (please, God, don’t let that Casablanca remake on the drawing board EVER see the light of day), I’ve come to learn in my advancing years that some films and TV shows from our past are not quite as great as we remember them to be.

However the original Karate Kid does NOT fall into the “nostalgia-good” category: It is definitely as good as you remember it – so the question (for me, anyway) is whether this new film passes the test of “worthy” remake and whether it stands on its own, even judged apart from the original (which is actually the more important question).

In this reincarnation of the film we have Jackie Chan playing the teacher (Mr. Han) and Jaden Smith playing the bullied new kid in town (Dre Parker). In this case the town is Beijing, where he and his mother have moved after the automobile factory she worked for in Detroit closed down. Apparently Dre’s mom was transferred from Detroit to China by the company (a situation that strained credulity if you ask me). She’s upbeat about pretty much everything, much like the mom in the original film, much to Dre’s chagrin.

Upon arriving he gets a crush on a local girl called Meiying (played by Wenwen Han), who is training to become a violinist and hopes to enter the prestigious Beijing Music Academy. In this version the bully is an overprotective friend of the family instead of an ex-boyfriend, and it doesn’t take too long into the movie until the initial beatdown happens.

We go through similar motions that we’ve seen in the original film, with Dre having to avoid the bully and his gang, although in this version they emphasize Dre’s fear of the bullies more than they did in the original. In a bit of adolescent revenge Dre dumps some sort of liquid on the bully and is chased and cornered by half a dozen who are beating him badly when Mr. Han comes to the rescue. The scene where Jackie Chan fends off half a dozen young kung-fu bullies is pretty amusing. Also here his character is shown to be not quite as seemingly invincible as Pat Morita’s character came across.

You know how the story will go: Mr. Han tries to reason with the evil kung-fu school teacher, reluctantly takes on Dre as a student, has Dre perform seemingly meaningless tasks for thousands of repetitions, this turns into martial arts training and we eventually end up at the big martial arts tournament.

And do they explain why they called the film The KARATE Kid instead of The KUNG FU Kid? Barely. There’s a throwaway sentence by Jaden about 30 minutes in that’s certainly not enough to justify it. They just named it that to tie it to the original, and in my opinion they could have done that with the latter (and initial) title. Bad marketing move if you ask me.

Director Harold Zwart doesn’t exactly have a high brow film pedigree (Agent Cody Banks, Pink Panther 2) and here he does an adequate job. It’s nothing spectacular but it’s not terrible, either. Sure, there were some beautiful shots of Beijing, China’s mountains and wooded areas, but I’d have to say to me it felt almost more like a made for TV movie than anything else.  While Will Smith’s son Jaden is an OK little actor, he’s not yet ready to carry an entire film. There just wasn’t as much heart in the thing as they were shooting for. One thing I did get a kick out of though was where in a couple of scenes Jaden was definitely channeling his dad’s mannerisms. On the other hand some of the emphasis on how buff he was with a few shirtless scenes struck me as a bit… weird (considering he was just 11 when this was filmed). Similarly, I found a scene in which the young lady he had a crush on danced fairly provocatively (for a 12 year old) to be too much considering her age.

Besides following the overall plot of the original very closely, there were several nods to that film that were nice to see – and I thought the replacement for “wax on, wax off” wasn’t bad.

It takes a while to warm up to the characters – too long, really, but once it gets down to the final 30 minutes or so the film improves quite a bit. It was quite cute in a few places and the scene where Dre finds out the source of Mr. Han’s solemn disposition was really quite touching. And speaking of Jackie Chan, I thought he was quite good in this role – a fitting one for an aging martial arts movie master such as himself.

Overall, I’d just call this a fresh take on the original – it’s not as good (even with the first film’s 80s music throughout), but it’s not a horrible stain on the memory of that film either. My score is maybe a bit generous than it might be (half a star) because I’m concerned I might be comparing it to the original (which I saw the night before I saw this one) too much. However I think audiences will like this film, especially the young ‘uns who’ve never seen the 1984 version and won’t know ahead of time how the story unfolds. It’s rated PG so it’s OK for kids, although some of the very young ones might not like seeing Dre get beaten up pretty badly.

So, sure, go check out this version of The Karate Kid – but afterward find some time to rent the original or find it on TV if you or your kids have never seen it. You can thank me later. icon smile The Karate Kid Review

Finally, here’s another look at the trailer for the film to help you decide.



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Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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TAGS: 3 star movies, the karate kid

104 Comments

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  1. @ Dvalley
    Awesome Comment! Plus you spelled Jaden’s name right. I was bullied in Elementary School. Now I dare someone step up to me. I protect myself and others. This film also teaches the bullies a lesson. I like how they bowed to Mr. Han at the end. Gotta love Respect! Oops, I think the bitter people just got madder…

  2. Hi there Frank thanks , its good to see some good folk like your self , encouraging and good hearted,, did you know that bitterness and cynicalisom is a real and true sign of mental poverty to govern what can harm others,, including ones own self. keep up the good work here.. your doing great – I love that scene you mentioned about the respect at the end of the film its something very rearly seen in films these days.. I cant wait to go back to see this gem of a remake.. ps Frank you seem like an enlightend being you might want to check out a brilliant Book by a great irish writer called John O Donough,, he wrote some amazing books about the ancient celtic mind and the world of the mind and the heart.. I got this feeling you might love the vibe that comes across when anyone reads the book is called Anam Cara its the irish for soul friend take care all the best .. keep up the good work

  3. Thanks Dvally! I am about to look that book up on Kindle right now! If it’s not there I’ll have to order it. Hey I write a series on my website called “The Ghetto Child”. The series is a combination of spirituality and my imagination. LoL! And thanks again Dvalley. I will check out that book. My website is SunRaymond.com

  4. Dvalley I just found Anam Cara on Kindle! Right now I’m reading “Living With the Himalayan Masters” and a few other books by Swami Rama. You might like his books. I will start Anam Cara when I’m done with those. :-)

  5. Well, I have to say I really enjoyed watching it. Maybe it’s just my deep love for asian culture, and seeing the backdrops for this movie got me excited for my trip to china in half a year. I did love the ending, when he related the mime trick he picked up from the palace(?) of the woman making the snake mimic her movements. I didn’t really like how he reflected his father a bit, yes, Will Smith is a great actor, but we all get tired of the same type of mannerisms in most of his films. In fact, when he DOESN’T use those mannerisms, he wins awards for it. But anyway, the story re-model was great in my opinion, because I can HONESTLY tell you that I DID NOT want to go see an american kid learn how to fight bullies in america, again. He’s much more successful than his sister though, who just released some s***** song about flipping her hair. Although I’m afraid that when he grows up, he’ll either have to develop his own style of acting (because that whole cute little kid thing will only last a couple more years) or completely copy his dad’s style. Best of luck to him, and might I also add that Jackie Chan was great in this role, although I couldn’t help laughing because the way he speaks english makes you think of a good guy, not a mysterious karate master.

    - Jake

  6. It sucked, so it wouldn’t have sold without the “Karate Kid” title. Greed, and it craps on the original.

    • You are so wrong, this is one of my favorite movies. It is a great movie, whats wrong with you??

      • The movie was ok, say three stars. The issue with me is that this was not karate kid. Karate kid was taught KARATE by a Japanese instructor. This was KUNG FU taught by a chinese instructor. Totally different and if you want to say it’s all martial arts then I guess that the same can be said about basketball and football since its a sport. So you can see that this was a bs marketing scheme that played on a popular movie with no regard to it. I wonder if this movie would have been able to stand alone without using the karate kid name? As I said the movie is good if I don’t consider it’s supposed lineage but if that is taken into consideration then it’s a huge insult.

  7. my kid rd and i love this movie so much, we enjoy watching it and we love jaden smith, he is a great actor like his dad, to jaden more movies pleeeeaaaaseeee….jaden we love you mwaahhhh

  8. Grew up with the original and loved it. Loved this version, too. I don’t feel a need to decide which was better. It doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that I really enjoyed this film. This movie was as enjoyable for me as the original. Jaden is a great little actor and I’ve always been a Jackie Chan fan.

    One of my favorite moments was the respect at the end and it was deserved. Those kids had suposedly been training for years and Mr. Han comes along and trains this new kid for a few months and he wins the tournament. A testament to Mr. Han’s superior style of training. I loved the ‘snake charmer’ moment at the end and the moment where Mr. Han breaks down and tells Dre about his loss. Very moving moment for me, especially when Dre pulls him out of the car and makes him start working with him, to remind him that life goes on. I actually teared up during that part…a few parts actually.

    I see so many negative and, worse, hostile comments and it doesn’t make sense to me. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and, in the end, that’s all they are…opinions. Enjoyment of art or entertainment is subjective and a personal thing. I think that criticizing someone else’s feelings about a movie is rude and dismissive. It’s okay to like the movie. It’s okay to hate. It’s not okay to attack other people for their feelings about it.

    Peace.

    • I could not have said it better DaRoss, and my opinion is that it was a fantastic movie. Nice job Jaden Smith!! :)

  9. theres so good and nice movie

  10. joke only is anice and verry good idia

  11. @ Jayfron
    You have a kool name! No joke.

  12. Terrible. If you want to see a good karate kid watch the original.its sooo much better..jayden is way too young for the part. This movie should be called kung fu kid.

  13. This is the only review you will ever need-this film gets a solid THREE out of FIVE stars. This film does not feature any karate (japanese), only kung fu (chinese!), so its title makes no sense. It would seem that the title of Karate Kid in the USA and UK is there just to bring in an audience and make more money, so in that sense, its poorly played.

    The Karate Kid is over 2 hours long, and that is its main problem. Will Smith and the rest of the film editors did not cut enough of the film out to make it interesting throughout for those watching. It starts well and ends well, but the rest in between is verging on being truly dull. Although Jaden can really act at such a young age, the films length gives a sense of being overindulgent. Perhaps his dad Will wants to keep everything his son stars in just for the sake of it-but that makes this into a movie that is far too long. If it was edited into a film that lasted just over 1 hour, then it would have been great popcorn cinema fodder, but as its over 2 hours, this film is not. After the first 40 minutes, it gets boring fast. Admittedly, the original 1984 movie was also 2 hours long, but it had enough of a storyline (and far more script) to maintain your attention. With the bullying and romance in the 1984 film, you felt alot more comfortable with it, than compared with a pre-pubescent Jaden Smith! With the girl Jaden supposedly “falls in love with” in this new movie, it stays in your head thats hes far too young for this kind of behaviour, unlike the original karate kid Daniel, who was in his mid teens.

    If you havent seen either movie, I would recommend watching the original first, but you really need to see both in the end to see how the new one compares. Since the new film has no karate, and is not called the Karate Kid in china or japan anyway (its called The Kung Fu Dream and The Best Kid), you can argue that its not really a remake, but with the addition of jackie chan catching flies with chopsticks, and to “break/sweep the leg” at the films end, that makes it feel like these moments were added just to bring in more people at the cinema and make more money. Most pro reviewers are stating that this new film stands on its own two feet, and
    whilst I do agree, its still let down by being far too long and not having enough of an interesting script to keep it going and make sure your eyes never leaving that tv screen.

  14. Can’t touch the original Wills son is cute but can’t act to save his life poor little guy. You need someone like the original youngster to make it worth watching.I got fed up after 1/2 hr. Total crap

  15. The movie karate kid was amazing, it has a lot of values and insights for the people who are watching. The characters were good in portraying their roles especially Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. And the sequence of the scenes were also organized properly so that the audience can follow the story easily.

  16. Watched it with my little boy who had never saw the original and he really loved it. I wanted t show him the original Karate kid to show him were it was copied from but in the endi did not because i did no wantot spoil it for him

  17. On the plus side, the new “Karate Kid” is a beautiful movie to watch. The shots in China, the landscapes and the grittier city scenes are all richly filmed and a pleasure to take in. You get a real sense of the mix of old and new that make up modern day China. The Kung Fu practiced by the Chinese characters in the film was interesting and entertaining to watch. To my novice eye, it looked authentic and was believable. None of the stop and go “Ha”, “Cha”, “Yah” that you see in older Bruce Lee movies or the over produced slow motion flying nonsense you see in later “martial arts” movies.

    On the negative side, The Jayden Smith character was not interesting and did not add anything to the film. I cant fault the kid. I think he did a good enough job, but he was miss cast. First he’s way to young and not nearly talented enough to carry the movie. He had almost no personality. He did not bring any spark at all to the movie. I found my self comparing his performance to that of my own kids in my own home movies. Of course ever time I see my kids face I’m interested and blown away by every thing he says. But I know no one else is going to be. I couldn’t help thinking that in making Karate Kid, Will Smith just made a home movie of his kid and while I’m sure he and his wife loved every minute their son was on screen, the rest of us should not have been subjected to it.

    Also, If they wanted to cast such a young kid, why introduce all of the adult or teen themes? They should have made it more fun and ‘child’ oriented. The rivalry for the girl was ridiculous. The viciousness of the “other 11 year olds” was silly. The whole bit where Jackie Chan is destroying his car and talking about what ever the hell he did to the two people in the picture (to be honest I fast forwarded over what ever his explanation was) looked like it was inappropriate for (or irrelevant to) the story over all.

    As I said, I cant fault Jayden, he’s just a kid, but Jackie Chan’s character was absolutely horrible! His performance was as flat, lifeless, boring, uninspiring… just as dreadful as you can possibly imagine. Jackie, as usual, brought nothing to the movie only this time he didn’t have Chris Tucker to carry the whole thing for him. They could just as well as had a kitchen mop teaching the kid Kung Fu. It would have made no difference in the movie.

    I don’t know, I could go on and on. “Put Jacket on, Take jacket off” Boring, boring, boring. In the end it boils down to this, Todays films are so technically beautiful, so well filmed, such a pleasure for the senses, it’s a shame that for all the advances we’ve made in “showing” a film, the art of “telling” a story has been completely lost.

    Do your self a favor, wait till your kids are a little older and then show them the Original Karate kid. That moment when Daniel San goes into the “Crane Stance” during the match still gives me goosebumps. The current version just left me staring at the scenery and checking to see how much time was left before the movie would finally be over.

    • You should watch the film in it’s entirety before making comments. I think Jaden and Jackie did a great job. Jaden especially did a good job, he is talented and believable in the role.

  18. The worst remake ever – beautiful locations but that does not make a great movie! The orginal was untouched and the actors great – Jackie Chan is believable in the role due to his age now but Chinese Kung Fu and a title called karate Kid – is this another Hollywood attempt at making money! I think so!

    • You think so do you? Another Hollywood attempt to make money. Of course they are trying to make money, aren’t we all? The worst remake ever? Really? I think you be slightly overstating things.

  19. Willow Smith could act for crap in this re-make! She’s horrible! Good thing her talented daddy is rich. Ralph Machio is the only Karate Kid! This re-make was horrible.