It may start a little wobbly (we refer here to the in-your-face portrayal of loss in the words ‘Daddy died’, an annotation on a height chart), but 2010’s The Karate Kid is an entertaining watch. Faithful enough to the original to be called a remake but different enough to remain fresh and viable, The Karate Kid of the noughties breathes new life into an old classic.
Jaden Smith stars as Dre, the titular kid, a kid who must suffer the culture shock inspired by a move from Detroit to China. For all of his woes (of which there are many – he’s bullied and is warned away from the girl he likes) he remains cocky and likeable, a small reincarnation of his father Will. Understandably sceptical of the move, Dre’s relationship with his mother is strained and the bullying only gets worse. Enter Mr. Miyagi stand-in Mr. Han (the ever-delightful Jackie Chan) who, reluctantly at first, takes Dre under his wing. Entering a karate championship, Dre must learn to fight if he is ever to fit in.
Gone are the days of ‘wax on, wax off’ (the car here being an awful reminder of a fatal family accident for Mr. Han) – this karate kid must face a bigger challenge; ‘coat on, coat off’. Yes, we watch as Dre learns to respect his mother and hang his clothes up – the moves also coming in surprisingly handy in the fighting world. Dre enters a journey of self discovery with mentor Mr. Han and the comedic tone of the film makes the build up to the film’s finale a fun ride.
The backdrop all of this plays out upon is a beautiful one and director Harold Zwart makes great use of the Chinese landscape (quite why they train on the Great Wall is beyond us, but it looks pretty nonetheless). The ruthless karate group of the 1984 original remain and are as vindictive as before. Whilst swotting on his karate, Dre finds time for love (which allows for a sweet first kiss scene) but the pair’s romance is cut short by her strict parents.
Thanks to its subtle humour and the great on-screen relationship between Smith and Chan, The Karate Kid is a great, old-fashioned feel good movie. Whilst the spiteful karate group may cheat their way through the championship, Dre’s predictable heroic actions are well-played and enjoyable. The game-like visuals in the championship act as reminder of the chasm in time between this film and its predecessor but, despite the age difference, 2010’s The Karate Kid works as well as before.
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