The Karate Kid Review

Published 5 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.

[poll id="51"]

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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  1. Thanks Vic. I and my daughter (who is 9) is a BIG Jackie fan so we were going to see it regardless, but the idea of it being light and fun is what I was expecting. While I liked the original this is not one of the beloved movies I minded seeing remade.

  2. I feel like I need to see the original first. I can’t believe I’ve never seen it!

    • Yeah, unless you’re a little kid, it’s pretty weird that you haven’t seen The Karate Kid.

    • you have never seen the original? thats almost unamerican lol

  3. I really enjoyed this movie and was reminded of the same sort of values from the original, which I also saw on opening day.

    Jada and Will should be extremely proud of this talented young son they molded into a pretty damn good actor.

    My audience, a full 11:30am audience today, was applauding at all of the key scenes, laughed at all of the appropriate moments and left with a good feeling amongst the chatter. The credits showed behind the scene photos of Jayden and the cast as well as a bald Will Smith and Jada reviewing the dailies.

    Great movie to take the family to. Great job Jayden!!!

  4. Unreal — Two 80′s rip offs. Two thumbs up from Vic. Color me intrigued.

  5. Did anyone else beg their dad’s to let them take up karate after watching the first movie?

    • Chris I have to strongly agree on that. I felt it was a waste. Like a B-movie knock off version. Acting okay at times not so good others.

  6. Not a fan of Jaden Smith, especially since the only reason he got this part was because of mommy and daddy. Didn’t like him in The Day the Earth Stood Still. He has a LONG way to go before he comes even close to the pedigree of his father. I’m going to avoid this film like Comic Book Guy avoids salads.

    • He’s a kid…? Of course he’s not gonna be a great actor.

      • This isn’t a slam at Jaden Smith, but there are some kids who are great actors, just as there are plenty of adults who are sorry ones. I don’t think age has as much to do with it as does talent and experience…

  7. Yeah I’ve seen enough just reading this review,,, ;-)

    This goes on my never see list.

  8. Just got back from seeing it. The martial arts was far better in this one but I have to agree with Vic, it seemed like a made-for-TV movie. And the shaky-cam was very annoying for me. Jaden is looking more and more like his father. Also, there were WAAAAYYYY to many nods to the original, in lines and action. And I don’t get why they called it Karate Kid, should have gone with Kung-Fu Kid. 3/5 for me (mostly for the martial arts).

  9. The audience I watched it with really seemed to be having a great time watching this movie. It wasn’t a perfect film by any means but it was a hoot to watch and I thought the nods to the original were well placed.

    Supposedly Jaden actually did that last move at the end without wires…I have my doubts.

    • They said he did that without wires? And it was actually him doing it? I don’t believe that for a second. If true, the boy’s going to be a major action star.

  10. I can sit through a so-so remake or even a cheesy movie here and there, but a real experience killer for me is “shaky-cam”. If the fight choreography is chopped up into ultrafast slices like in the 2nd and 3rd Bourne movies, forgettaboutit.

    • The shaky-cam wasn’t during the fight scenes, which I thought were well choreographed, it was during dramatic scenes. I guess it was a small nitpick but it did bother me.

  11. Saw it with my wife and daughter the other day. My wife and I both saw the original and we wanted to see the updates on this one. My 6-year-old daughter on the other hand wanted to see it because she’s taking Wu Shu lessons so she was naturally curious about this one.

    My wife and I both agree that this version is more action packed than the original, though this comment is not intended to take anything away from the original which was very enjoyable during it’s time (well, yeah, it still is today whenever I catch it on cable TV). My kid loved it, though she did cover her eyes whenever Jaden got bullied. We would have to agree with Vic about Jaden…he somehow looked like a “mini-me” of his dad in the way he acted on some of the scenes. Quite amusing.

    And…well…I’ve been a long time Jacky Chan fan and I’m a bit sad to see how old Jacky has become. But then again, he did a very good job being the Sifu this time instead of the student, like in his earlier movies where he always did these outrageous training routines devised by his aging, nasty old master.

    Overall, it was a feel-good movie, though the title was indeed “problematic” in a way. Calling it “Kung Fu Kid” would have been good enough for me. And yeah…”jacket off, put it on” is the new “wax on, wax off.”

  12. This was a good movie and did not soil the original. My only problem was the title, but other than that good movie.

  13. well, i guess give it a shot, i mean i do love Wu Shu….

  14. I really enjoyed this movie. I thought it was a great update to a classic film. The focus on Dre getting bullied really drew you in and made you empathize for him, especially considering how intense it was. I was both shocked (because I wasn’t expecting it) and pleased with the intensity of the fighting. And I enjoyed Jackie Chan’s first fight against the kids; there was some classic Jackie Chan fighting style in there which was good to see.

    Vic, as for calling the girls dancing provocative, I think that’s a bit off. She was just replicating the way a lot of Asian girl groups dance. I also appreciated their representation of the Chinese culture, I think they did a really good job of capturing it.

  15. Just hang your coat up on hook and you become kung-fu master. Ha ha ha. Hardly any training and a modern day B-rated bite off of the original. Not realistic and not inspirational. Small flashes of great acting from Jaden but also was alot of cheese whiz as well, definitely parts that I didnt feel he was totally connected to the role. Big miss with my Wife and I.

  16. Congrats everyone that actually got in the car, drove, parked, paid for tickets sat down in a crowded theatre, put up with noisy children, etc to see The Karate Kid!

    You’ve just created a new superstar, Jaden Smith!!! 8-O

    From where I’m sitting, its like watching a global cinematic Frankenstein event. A rare but increasingly common situation. 8-)

    • He’s the new Jonas Brothers

    • Well, I didn’t pay for tickets…so there! 8-)

  17. Just another bad knock off of a great original film

    The wiz
    Dr. Doolittle
    The nutty professor
    This bad version of the karate kid

    All sucked, all had great actors in the remakes, but just didn’t stand out as remarkable.

  18. Though i loved the original I actually feel, from the standpoint of a martial artist, that the remake was much better. The remake showed the true meaning of martial arts very well. As well as it had good martial arts choreography unlike the original. I did however have to pull myself away from the mentality that remakes will always be worse than the original in order to realize how great this movie truly was.

  19. People are already saying Jayden got the role because of his dad. I’m sure that helped but he did a good job. Jackie Chan was great, it’s nice to see an actor doing Kung Fu and know he’s as good as the character he plays. It’s a fun movie and I don’t see why people are complaining about it.

    • People will complain about anything, but most can’t seperate themselves from the past and enjoy the present.

  20. Ok…. Son wanted to see it so we saw it…

    It holds nothing close to the first. I was going in to try and like it after the picks against it by Vic.. 1st one being the Mother getting transferred. I know SOME companies actually do this. Most people do not take the offer and stay stateside as families etc. the mother appeared to have no issue with it. I may have taken it also if I was a single parent…

    About right there I have to almost agree wioth Vic except for the .5 Should have been a 3. ;)

    Mom… yeah lets let Jackie the weird “old” maintenance guy take your son out for an all day trip to god knows where. Times were a little diff back in the original…

    The Mom just didnt seem to “care” as much as the previous mom. Dont know if it was writing acting or what.

    Yeah the tramp dance by a 12 year old violinist…. It made me AND my 12 yo squirm a little. I felt dirty just watching it.

    I was content with the movie as I spent very little money… well I was content except for one thing…. the “finishing” move…. Came totally out of left field and even made my son question its believability. My son was like where did he learn that?

    Then where I thought they would have made the film (however would have taken away from the “kid” in Karate Kid) was when Jackie was going to beat the snot out of the other “teacher”. I can actually say for some reason or another I hated him more then the original and was looking forward to Jackie making him eat some much deserved humble pie.

    Hopefully word of mouth will stop this train wreck however I think word of mouth (via kids) will just push it along…

    • I kind of feel a spoiler warning should be done here.

      ******* SPOILER WARNING *******

      Yeah, where did that kick come from? In the original, we saw Miyagi do those moves and Daniel just mimicked what he saw. Dre saw the female artist move along with the cobra but we saw nothing like that kick. I have to admit, it was a very unexpected move and it did it’s job to shock the audience, but when I read your post, I have to agree, it was totally out of left field.

  21. Firstly, I completely disagree w/the “haters” who are double and triple posting their dislike of the movie. I’m not the type to go into a movie and analyze every detail, so for that reason I thoroughly enjoyed it.
    (It doesn’t bother me that Jackie Chan wasn’t wearing a black suit during the competition as did Pat Morita)..

    I grew up watching the karate kid almost every day when I was young and was very curious to see whether or not the remake would live up to the original. Although I dont necessarily agree the new one is better, it is definitely a step up from the previous karate kid. It has been modernized and is much more relatable for the youth today than the old movie would be. Overall I would say it is a positive movie for the kids and teaches core values we don’t see a lot in films today (minus the “tramp dance”).

    • Josh…

      How was it a step up? Just because it is “modernized” does not make it better.

      How is it much more relatable then the original? It was almost frame for frame the exact same “story” as relatable to a teen/kid being bullied and overcoming that.

      • In my opinion, the simple fact that the story took place in our day makes it more enjoyable for youth – ie today’s fashion/culture.

        I’m not saying the original would NOT be embraced by young ones who have not seen either of the 2, I’m simply saying they’ll probably (italicized) enjoy the new one more.

        • Sorry have been busy. Besides the “tramp dance” machine what made it “modern”?

          There was nothing in the new film (that I saw) that made it more modern then the previous one.

          In all actuality setting it in China made the feel less modern then the actual time period it was filmed in.

          • Jayden’s corn rows, the music, and some of the slang. That should cover it! Now let’s put in theaters and make big money!

  22. I think it was tight! I like this one just as much as I like the original. 5 Stars for both. Oh and another thing, compared to where I come from, that was not tramp dancin’.

  23. Amen

  24. @Tha Truth
    You realize your taking about a Karate Kid remake film.

    I’d love to enjoy the present watching something of value not a mindless kung fu flick remake that I can revisit anytime on dvd.

  25. Smirk mode,,, ;-)

    Kahless what happend to your face? You look so orignal series,,,

  26. @790
    That was a dumb question and…
    That didn’t make no sense what you just said…hush.

  27. I cannot believe the negative reviews that I have read. Are you guys anywhere near serious?? LOL, what is it that the kids used to do “talk to the hands cuz I am NOT listening”! The movie was expectedly predictable, but really good. I thought that Jaden’s acting was better than I expected, he definitely has that “star” quality. As for the young girls dancing, anyone who thought that that was provocative, instead of a young very disciplined, always practicing, violinist “just letting loose & having some unstructured fun” needs to relax their mindset. Naysayer’s I won’t berate you at all I will just continue to allow the public/box office records to say what I won’t. ; )