Okay, here's the scoop. The Karate Kid (2010) in no way lives up to its 1984 predecessor, but enough modifications have been made to the story to appeal to this generation of Wii-playing, Urbandictionary.com-reading kids to make it a worthwhile watch. And although it is a bit unsettling seeing pre-pubescent boys fighting in a ring like a $2 Thai Cock Fight, I cannot deny that even I enjoyed it despite my firm belief that Will Smith essentially is playing the same character in every movie he does. Of course it is plain to the eye that his son Jaden, the film's star has learned a thing or two about Comedic Timing from Dad.
When Sherry Parker (Taraji P. Henson) is required to transfer over to Beijing for work, the single mother takes herself and her son out of Detroit where not much remains after she was widowed by her husband. Son Dre (Smith) gets himself to trouble quickly upon arrival, falling for the beauty of violin playing Meiying (Wenwen Han). Sour-faced Cheng (Zhenwei Wang) however also has his eye on her and gets territorial, abusing his Martial Arts prowess in bullying Dre into submission.
Dre befriends his building's Maintenance Man Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) and after rescues the boy from a rough beating unexpectedly with hidden fighting abilties. He then commits to teaching the young boy Kung Fu (note: not Karate - there is a difference), explaining that its purpose is to maintain Peace, not to be used for Retaliation. Cheng however is taught the opposite by his Master, being encouraged to use brute force and no mercy in fighting. Mr. Han strikes a deal with Cheng's Master for his students to cease any more bulling until Dre is properly trained and thus, a Face-off is scheduled in a forthcoming Tournament. Thus, this is where the story takes off with Mr. Han being assigned the near impossible task of transforming Dre into a Champion... in weeks.
The question here is, what isn't wrong with this story? Despite going through a major transformation, we are forced to believe that Dre as a 12 year-old (especially in China) doesn't have to focus at all on studies and devote all his time to learning Kung Fu? Perhaps this is a bit of an insult to those who have studied Martial Arts as I'm sure even Chan can attest to the fact that it takes more than a few weeks of training to reach Championship form. The film's story line of 12 Year-Old Love is a bit of a hard-sell and we fail to see why it is that Dre would put himself through this much trouble in the honour of a girl he hardly knows.
The young Smith has a very bright future ahead of him in continuing his family's legacy of Box Office success and this is only the beginning for him. Perhaps they could've waited a few more years to make this film as my general feeling is that the younger characters haven't yet grown into the roles that were created for them. Henson as always is fun to watch, having fun with her role yet reigning in the right amount of audience control when required. And poor Chan who I have the utmost respect for, was just horrific to watch in his teary confessional moment where he reveals the reason behind his loneliness. Audience heckling just would not stop in what should have been a tender moment.
The Karate Kid (2010) is for the kids and because this is so, it is moot point to attack it. For what it lacks in believability, it makes up for with tightly choreographed fight scenes and cinematography, presenting Beijing through the eyes of a Foreigner. The Sony Pictures film is now in wide release. Grade: B-