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. Its all in how you look at it – I will take my view on the fact. IF you are going to do a remake – at least bring something new to the table.
    Considering I am sure they are marketing this movie to the younger crowd and want it upbeat. I think it did its job. I only have problems with a few areas. That being the Lighting that seems to be rather bright in a few scenes and the music that seems rather out of place. I could be wrong but
    some of the best lines in the movie happen to be NON ENGLISH. and we have to read them on the screen – Yes this takes away from the movie to me.
    Add the the fact everyone wants to nod saying the acting was great by both Jaden and Chan – lets look close – mostly at Jaden’s scenes. Seems to me they had plenty of out takes – as his dialog doesn’t fit take per take all all the scenes that are shown its like he had to find his center and phone in the work. I am not saying he has to be an expert
    I feel like someone needs to coach him on how to convey his emotions better on the screen a bit better. – Then you have Chan in the car he beat up – oh man classic – seems to me this is the worst acting in years I have seen from Chan. Then we have the Big Tournament Is it me or would they really play this kind of music at a Tournament. Maybe they would but it seems so out of place. Considering they are in China.
    And for anyone saying that Jaden did that last move with No Wires needs to wake up. Even in slow motion it looks wire rigged.
    Kids will flock to the movie and thats to be expected.
    I can’t say I hate the movie – I just know where it came from and where it was going.

  2. Movie was awesome!
    My kids loved it.
    Jaden was fantastic, he’ll be a huge star just like his father.

    • Its a nice movie albeit 90% copied from the original “Karate kid”.
      Makes you think Jacky Chan is out of script zz..
      Close observe tells you that the title does not fit the movie.
      Jacky Chan taught the kid kungfu not karate, unlike the original.
      So “Kungfu Kid” should be titled instead.

  3. I think the movie was amazing. It was much better tahn the origional, because the storyline was far more believable and the karate was far better. Jaden is an amazing actor, and surprisingly, Jakie Chan did good as well.

  4. this movie was really great. I’m more determined to continue my karate lessons.

  5. Kept my grandson in his karate class and his mom loved it. Jaden is great.

  6. Umm….I know you “movie guys” are usually unflappable lovers of the original versions of movies, but i think you’re VERY wrong in this case. I’m an 80′s baby, and i grew up LOVING the Karate Kid. Who among us doesn’t STILL use the phrase “wax on wax off?” lol. Point is..the new movie is DEFINATELY better than the original. IN EVERY WAY! Lol. I don’t even think it’s debatable, which is why it’s funny to me that you like the original more?? Even the whole “put on your jacket” thing tops the wax on wax on thing. Lol.

  7. Wow. This movie was incredible as far as the two films are concerned. MUCH better than the original, which is a very rarely used phrase. lol. I honestly think most of you jerks just don’t like to see the little black boy doing a better job, and being apart of a better film than the original. His character was MUCH easier to connect to and care about than “Danielson” and the training and development of his fighting skills MUCH more believable. Plot. Better. Action. Better. Emotion. Better. Everything. Better. So umm……??? MOVIE BETTER!!!! lol.

  8. This movie was great, I laughed, and even shed a tear. Great Fathers Day movie. My boys (7 & 9) and I watched the original which has been running on cable during the past few weeks and they as did prefer this version to the original. The whole theater cheered throughout. The reviewer here is completely out of touch and seemed to review the film with a preconcieved attitude that it’s not going to be good.

    Jaden Smith was great, Jackie Chan as Mr. Han was perfect. The lead bully could have been the Spawn of Bollo (the nemisis of Bruce Lee in so many of those films).

    Well done two thumbs up – I will buy the disk when it becomes available!

  9. @ yep and Gregg

    That’s right…tell em’!!! Amen!

  10. This remake is barely watchable. Jayden simply cannot act. He seems like a nice and likable kid, but he’s not got much inherent talent. I knew this before watching the movie, but decided to give this a shot anyway.

    Chan did ok in some parts, but he seemed disconnected for most of it. He does have one brilliant moment when he tells Dre of his family. That’s it though, the rest he seems like he’s reading his lines with a dead expression.

    The fight scenes were better than the original movie, but I really did not feel anything for the main character or the bad boys. I remember watching the original and wanting to smack the hell out of the lead bad boy and rooting for that nerd Machio.

    I remember well the original movie had made a major impact at the time, it was all the buzz and people were repeating lines from the movie for years to come.
    What’s this movie’s impact? Well, none that I can see. It’s just a remake with updated action scenes. The kiddies will like this better because Dre says things to his teacher like, “Damn man, cmon that hurt” or “whatever”, and uses a cell phone. How hip! ;)

  11. Now that I think of it, there was no good reason to make this movie except for Will and Jada to get their child into the limelight.

    There was already 3 karate kid movies, plus a thousand other underdog beats up the bad kid movies out there.

    Now if there was a movie that’s prime for remaking I would say they should do redo My Bodyguard. More believable storyline, the original is really dated looking and the main kid is so nerdy he’s unlikable no matter how much badly you him to beat up Matt Dillon.

  12. Ahh there ya go, as long as they can act better than me, they deserve to be in the movies. Excellent standard, you set the bar high sir.

    You didnt see him check his messages on his phone? Oh well clearly it must not have happened if you didnt see it Frank!
    (At one point when his girl-friend was not speaking with him, he checked his phone, he pressed a button or two and it said “MESSAGE DELETED” on the face of the phone.)

    Daniel didnt curse at his mentor as did Dre did with teacher.

    Dont launch an attack or argument with other people unless you know for sure what you’re talking about – and have a point.

  13. @ Intelliq

    Daniel-San cursed a lot more than Dre Parker.

    I did not see Dre Parker with a cell phone…

    And uhhm…His name is Jaden!!

    (Bet he can act better than You)

    • I bet he can, but then so can most people, so I’m probably no the best benchmark for acting standards. It was just my view no intention to offend, his dad is pretty cool, he might improve as he gets older.

  14. Is your point that you’ll like just about anything then? ;)

    This particular remake just doesnt resonate with me, and I really had set the bar low for this one just so it didnt fall short of expectations. And it still failed.

    One thing that really bothered me is the casting of Jaden. He cant act, but still got a leading role because of his parents. I suspect they put up some of their own money and there was risk obviously, but still…..

    For the record, Im a huge fan of Will Smith. Not all of his stuff, but most of it probably just due to the fact that he’s been front in center in so many things since he was the Fresh Prince. From the Freddie Kruger rap song, and Parents Just Dont Understand (i think that’s the name of it), and over the years while he’s made substantial improvements in choosing roles. (I like Seven Pounds the best)

  15. 1) Nice observation…
    2) I ain’t launchin’ no attack.
    3) Yea I have a point…

    “As long as they can act better than me, they deserve to be in the movies”

    Uhhm…that is correct.


  16. I think Jaden acted like kids that I meet in real life. So it was believable for me. But…

    That’s WusSup! (@ Last Paragraph)

  17. Pretty good film. I saw it with my mates after class today. Sorry to say that it can’t match up to the original, no matter how good it turned out to be. (: I am one of those who believes the original will be best.


  18. i saw this movie last Sunday and i really love it, can’t wait to have a copy of this movie! my husband usually sleeps coz movie for him is boring, but not while watching Karate Kid.. love the humor chemistry of Jackie Chan (who happens to be my most favorite martial arts actor since drunken master) and Jaden Smith, can’t wait to see more movies of this young actor Jaden…Congratulations on your first movie, you did great!.. Congratulations to both Will and Jada…

  19. Look, some of you people are crazy! I go to the movies at least once a weeks and am a huge movie critic, my friends and family usually watch a movie based on what I think about it. Now about this movie. I was born in 83 and grew up watching the original. Loved it then and still do. This compared to the original. Not too much of the same, only similar. Both movies are good movies, but just like everything else, it has to be up to date. I put both in the same level neither one better then the other… Jaden was only 11 yrs old when this movie was filmed. You gotta cut the kid some slack. He was actually pretty good. I noticed some parts looked a little scripted, but overall he did a good job. Jackie Chan, was perfect for the role. He did everything right, and I love how they added “his” type of karate into it. Overall this was a good movie, and I would recommend it to just about anyone.

  20. @ Poundz

    Yea!! Tell ‘em!

  21. I love the first karate kid and admittingly wasn’t too entused about seeing the second. But I did because of a free ticket. It was so so good! I loved it the whole way through! I was shocked with jaden’s acting. He was verry believable and I thought the bit of his dad showing through was a good thing because of how talented we all know will smith is. The reason he had is shirt off was to show how buff he got and how hard he worked. Nothing more! And honestly I didn’t even think for a second of that dance being “trampy”. I hope we will be seeing more of jaden in the future because he most definitely can hold his own in a major film.

  22. I love the first karate kid and admittingly wasn’t too entused about seeing the second. But I did because of a free ticket. It was so so good! I loved it the whole way through! I was shocked with jaden’s acting. He was verry believable and I thought the bit of his dad showing through was a good thing because of how talented we all know will smith is. The reason he had is shirt off was to show how buff he got and how hard he worked. Nothing more! And honestly I didn’t even think for a second of that dance being “trampy”. I hope we will be seeing more of jaden in the future because he most definitely can hold his own in a major film.and as for the name, karate kid is way more catchy than kung fu kid ;)

  23. People who thought this was better because of the updated fight scenes probably thought that the garbage prequels to Star Wars were better than the originals because of the the fight scenes and “special” effects. People like that are impossible to talk to because they aren’t smart enough to understand what makes a movie good. They’re too fascinated with scenery and choreography that they’re distracted by the fact that the story is horrible. It’s like jingling your keys in front of a baby. Aside from Jackie Chan being pretty good, you don’t care at all about any of the characters. There’s no sense of real danger or drama with the bullies so they exaggerate the beatdowns. There’s no chemistry at all between Jaden and Jackie Chan’s characters. Nowhere near the chemistry Macchio and Morita had. Oh, and everybody in China speaks English. Yes, much more believable than the original! I could go on forever about why this was an abomination but this little box couldn’t hold it all. LOL!

    • And you’re the expert and smart one.
      What’s wrong with being attracted to scenery and choreography? You make it sound as though these things contribute to the movies ‘bad story’. How stupid.
      For your information, most young people in China speak English. Yes, I know that because I live in China.

      • K – That’s an outright lie. I was in China for over a month and your statement is a lie.

  24. I think Jaden is a little to young to have a romantic attachment with the young Chinese Girl which looks like 14 to me.

    But otherwise, the new places and people is reasonably good for a remake.

    I still love the original, desprite I am a great fan of Jackie Chan and Will Smith.

  25. the movie was lousy overall. though the fight scenes may be great and jackie chan was good it doesn’t change that there was no chemistry. it was a ploy to kick up old dust, make a few bucks, put the kid in the lime light and hollywood lost its originality. will smith may be good but that doesn’t mean his son is, maybe in another type of movie- but this wasn’t it, poor performance period. no heart doesn’t mean it lacked dedication it just didn’t measure up. a smart move would have been to alter the script more, it wouldn’t have that comparison and it’d be its own modern movie but instead its horrible. that kid shouldn’t have cussed because little kids watch it and they become role models and that girl was dancing seductively- for her age. its the little things. my kids would the original and not something like this because the original demonstrates the proper respect that exists within karate.

    • Seriously? It’s just a movie. You are taking it a little too seriously and for the record kids do “cuss” on occasion although I didn’t know that ass was a swear word.

  26. Eh Hem!

    Attention people of the world…Pay no mind to Kat. This man…or woman called someone on this post (not me) an A-Hole then somehow deleted his comment. But now he (or she) wants to sweat Jaren for sayin’ the A word. I bet Kat’s kids loves (or would love) this movie because it’s simply the bomb and just as good as the original. This movie demonstrates the proper respect that exist within Kung Fu. As for Kat…stone him! (or her). Little kids read this post and we become role models. I Love you too kids. Now go see this movie!

    • Frank that was us. Kat violated the only rule we have: “No profanity or personal attacks” so we removed his comment.

      • Strange. Paul I believe you mentioned no personal attacks correct? Well what about Frank Raymond’s comment? I believe that almost the whole things seems to be a personal attack but I know for a fact that telling people to stone Kat is. Seems unfair to me.
        Also, Frank, how come you seem to be trashing anyone who thinks that this movie sucks?

  27. @ Pual Young

    That’s wonderful man! Yea commenting is fun but some people get too serious with it sometimes. LoL! Good thing I don’t curse.

  28. @John
    The Star Wars prequels were NOT bad. I’m not saying they’re better than the original trilogy, but they are at the same level, and I might even say parts of them (especially Revenge of the Sith) had better story than the originals. (Sorry for sort of contradicting myself, but I didn’t know how else to say it)

  29. I was not so sure about how this would turn out because of the old films, but I was so struck by it all I really took to it. I was so knocked out by the scenery, the mystical elements in it it was more beautiful than the the old ones even tho i love the old ones. It was awesome there where moments where I got a real sense Of God in it i was nearly tear like in some parts of it.

    I felt a part of me had awaken inside that lay dormant for so long, I’m reading the heavy critics here and they have a right to their views, but really how sad they are, how bitter and twisted its so easy to be a critic its in all of us but in some it voices in them most of the time. and that makes for a very bitter life, that leads one to never be content, to be always conflicted and wanting a restless answer answered to the detriment of others at their perl.

    But yeah I loved this film I could have seen this through a negitive eye, but I just was really taken in by it, Jaden he made his daddy proud,, the only thing was the name of the film was a slight off but I suppose nothing is perfect in this world.

    There is so many lessons there in the film, and especially about Bullying,, there are so many people effected by it,, an irish Girl living in the states commited suicide because of the sever Bullying she went through,, and many more go through terrible emotional trouble over it.

    so the film in some way may help someone young out there to open up that their being Bullied,,,

    I loved this film Dont be put of by lovely things by objectional people I say ..