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:: The Karate Kid

With the success of the original, many would question the need to recreate the 1984 movie classic. The new Karate Kid is formulaic and predictable. It runs with the original underdog structure where the infamous “swipe on, swipe off” catch phrase is replaced with a similar metaphor, a little more violence is injected and the mentor is substituted by kung fu master Jackie Chan.

Jaden Smith plays Dre, the cool and unphased kid from the Detroit block who joins his mother on a life changing trip to Beijing, China. Dre immediately finds it difficult to fit in and is endlessly tormented by the block’s tough guy, Cheng (Zhenwei Wang), after his attempts to spark a friendship with his classmate Mei Ying (Wen Wen Han).

The cultural differences make everything seem impossible and Cheng finally challenges Dre to fight in the ‘big tournament’ to settle the contest. Desperate to beat his rival, Dre turns to his building’s maintenance man, Mr Han (Jackie Chan), who is secretly a kung fu master who trains Dre to challenge Cheng in the tournament. After gruelling session and long spiritual journeys with Mr Han, Dre is finally ready to compete in the tournament.

Director, Harald Zwart, takes the viewer through a scenic montage of beautiful Chinese cultural sites which is contrasted by Dre’s stylings as a pint-sized Snoop Dog who breakdances at every opportunity. This may be one of Jackie Chan’s best English-speaking roles but he does not steal the limelight, rather, complements Dre’s robust character very well.

Attempting to add an ‘adult element’ to the script, Dre and Mei Ying form an oddly uncomfortable romance which includes an awkward first kiss and over-sexed dance-off to Lady Gaga’s Poker Face, which is unsettling knowing how young they really are. The fight scenes are the most impressive of the entire film where much of the talent lies within the young actors and their martial arts skill. Impressive as the skill are, at times the fighting is a little overwhelming. Although a PG rated film with its lead hero aimed at young school children, it may be a bit too violent to take the kids to see.

The most noteworthy performance comes from 11-year-old Jaden Smith who uses his role as Dre to showcase his athleticism and extremely ripped torso. But with Hollywood A-list parents, it is little wonder where Jaden’s talent and extreme confidence is derived. The Karate Kid is produced by parents, Will Smith and Jada Pinket Smith and cynics could deem this a vanity project to spur on their son’s career.