Film Review

The Karate Kid

Director: Harald Zwart
Starring: Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith, Taraji P Henson, Zhenwei Wang, Wenwen Han
Rating: ***

  If you couldn’t get enough of Jaden Smith’s innocence and cute hysterics in The Pursuit of Happyness, watch out for his heroism in The Karate Kid. The tiny tot of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith has grown big and leaves you in awe of his machismo in this remake of the highly acclaimed 1984 coming-of-age drama of the same name.
  The new version is a reboot of the first part of the old franchise, which included four consecutive parts. So if you have cheered endlessly for high school senior and underdog Daniel as he defeats his opponent in the karate tournament and applauded his motivator/trainer Mr Miyagi all the same, there are chances you might do that over again, this time for Dre and Mr Han.
  Sherry Parker (Taraji P Henson) moves to Beijing from Detroit along with her 10-year-old son Dre (Jaden Smith) after her husband’s death. Dre is the only African-American at school and is constantly harassed by a gang of bullies head by Cheng (Zhenwei Wang). Cheng hates Dre for being close to their classmate Mei Ying (Wenwen Han) as much as for his non-Chinese origins. Dre is full of fear and hatred for the place until Mr Han (Jackie Chan) comes to his rescue. A kung-fu master living in exile, Mr Han plays mentor to Dre and prepares him for the upcoming kung-fu tournament to fight Cheng, who is already a pro at the martial art. The training not only enables Dre to get rid of his fear but also fills the void of a friend and father in his life as it does for Mr Han, who lost his wife and son in an accident.
  As compared to the original film, Director Harald Zwart, of Pink Panther 2, makes little changes except one major variation. Instead of karate, he showcases kung-fu in his version. But the title still remains The Karate Kid. It’s understood that the title was meant to cash on the popularity of its predecessor but it is misleading nevertheless. Another factor that doesn’t go down well is the portrayal of violence and aggressiveness among school children. Cheng’s kung-fu teacher, who preaches ‘No weakness, no pain, no mercy’ to his students, is a symbol of promoting this violence. The final sequence of the tournament sure makes you tense in anticipation of the result but it invites more uneasiness as you see these kids indulge in brutal fights, breaking each other’s legs.
  But the bright side is Jaden Smith, who makes up for all the dark patches that may exist. It’s amazing to see this 11-year-old take the entire film on his little shoulders and emerging as the hero. He fights, romances and makes you laugh, his comic timing being ditto a la Will Smith style. This small wonder is living up to the legacy of his parents and makes every bit of this star vehicle launched by them for him. Jackie Chan delivers a restrained performance. He leaves behind his trademark funny and vibrant side and takes on a more mature, intense and somewhat suppressed character. His chemistry with Jaden is heartwarming.
  The Karate Kid may just be another simple and predictable story of a victorious underdog but you still mumble a small prayer for Dre when he is taking on Cheng in the final leg of the tournament. That’s some victory for the film!


Popular Posts