Taraji P. Henson
Every so often, a critic has to eat crow when they see a movie they thought was going to be bad and it turns out to be good. This is one of those cases.
In this remake, the audience follows the character Dre Parker (Smith) who is moving to China since his mother was hired at a new job. His first few days there are a little rocky until he meets a girl named Mei Ying (Han) and the two become friends. However, this leads to trouble, mainly from a bully named Cheng.
The conflict eventually leads to Dre to fighting Cheng, who studies martial arts. As a result, Dre also wants to learn martial arts and begins training under a maintenance worker, Mr. Han (Chan).
This imagining of the “Karate Kid” story does have the basic premise of the original film, with a quirky teacher, a somewhat rebellious but good hearted kid and a group of bullies. However, there’s enough done here to keep things fresh.
Along with the change in locations, there’s also a much heavier emphasis on tradition and culture, with these two aspects being primary driving forces for the characters. This is especially true with the villains, who are more than just typical high school bullies.
Additionally, the movie has new backstories, specifically with the character Mr. Han, who has a tremendously tragic backstory that lends itself to a very emotional connection between him and Dre.
The movie also knows how to have plenty of fun, too. The training techniques, for example, are once again quirky and outside the box, making the training enjoyable to sit through.
One of the more pleasing aspects of the picture was Smith’s performance. After seeing him in “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” I was somewhat worried, but he gets the job done here. In many ways, he plays the role as his predecessor in this franchise did, portraying both the more rebellious side and the good natured side.
Chan also gave a very good performance as Mr. Han, Dre’s mentor. Even though he was walking into a rather famous role, with Mr. Miyagi being rather iconic, Chan was able to give a heartfelt performance and was believable as mentor, trainer and father figure for Dre.
One aspect that’s undoubtedly better than the original was the martial arts featured. Compared to the original, this remake has much more intense, fast paced and well choreographed fights.
“The Karate Kid” is a solid remake and one that will likely surprise some skeptics. The original will always have a place with me and other fans thanks to how charming and quotable it is. However, this is a good, modern and different take on the title. 4 out of 5.
This review was first produced for the KSDM-KGHS Radio Station in International Falls, Minn.