The Karate Kid: Jackie Chan Remakes the 80s Demi-Classic

Like the 1984 original, this new Kid begins with an uprooting. Young Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) and his mother are introduced in their Detroit apartment, now packed into boxes. Ralph Macchio was shipped off to the Valley; Dre is going to China. A skate kid behind on his growth spurt, Dre attracts horrible bullying from a jealous classmate and his cronies, all of whom are training together in a show-no-mercy fighting school. He is saved from being crippled by the intervention of his building’s super, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan). Seeing the boy’s dilemma, Han agrees to teach him a title-defying lesson in kung fu self-defense. The first Karate Kid was a bit of a Frankenstein: a Charles Atlas ad premise (97-pound weakling trains to get his revenge) that sent geeks flocking to the dojo; a cross-cultural surrogate-fatherhood story; a fist-pumping aerobic-workout montage. It’s all still here, building toward the same showdown tournament, though the fighting is far more bone-crunching, FX-augmented, and impossible this time. If the original is fondly remembered, it’s because the actors’ looseness and the abject trash soundtrack relaxed an audience to the point where we could enjoy our favorite underdog clichés. Remake director Harald Zwart hasn’t done anything that would threaten to make this a really new movie—a Karate Kid who stayed in Detroit, for example—and there is the impression, deadly to the sense of fun, that the talent here actually thought they were remaking a classic.