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Preview review: Jaden Smith fights his way through 'The Karate Kid'

February 24, 2010 |  7:00 am

Karatekid2 The 1984 teen film "The Karate Kid" told the story of a dorky outcast, played by Ralph Macchio, who was taught the sacred art of karate by the wise Mr. Miyagi (the late Pat Morita) in order to defend himself against school bullies.

The film has since become such a cultural staple that when Sony announced it was remaking the movie, some skeptics wondered if a reboot could taint the original. The new film, which comes out in June, stars Jaden Smith (who also happens to be Will Smith's son, who also happens to a producer on the movie).

Smith plays Dre Parker, a young boy whose childhood is disrupted when his mother (Taraji P. Henson) takes a job in China. After moving from the United States, Dre -- like Ralph Macchio before him -- is teased by schoolkids and seeks solace in a friendship with an older martial artist, here known as Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), who teaches him the ways of kung fu against the backdrop of the Great Wall and other Chinese landmarks.

Jaden's 11, and he's kind of adorable. But he's also really little -- so little we're skeptical about buying him as a newly minted martial-arts hero. Boyish is one thing; child-like is another.

So we went back and watched the trailer for the original and got a little bit nostalgic. Macchio, with his poofy '80s hair and cut-off T-shirts, exudes just the right amount of cheese so the movie doesn't take itself too seriously. And the entire spectacle is grounded by Morita, who oozes a sage wisdom we're not sure, at least judging by the trailer, that action star Jackie Chan will be able to pull off.

Will Jaden prove to be as big a box-office draw as his famous dad? Is there any way the remake will be able to live up to the landmark original? Share your thoughts in our poll.

-- Amy Kaufman

Photo: Jaden Smith stars in "The Karate Kid." Credit: Columbia Pictures

Comments () | Archives (30)

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You can't compare the two because they're both entirely different films. Although the spirit of the original appears to be there, it's quite clear that the change in location and martial art form deviate from the original. This actually makes the title of the film stupid -- Karate is a Japanese art form and Gung fu is a Chinese art form.

Atta way to disrespect the culture of Japan and China Will Smith and Jackie Chan.

This film could've probably stood on it's own without having to acquire the rights in order to use the title. The producers should have been a little more creative with the script so as not to entirely copy the plot and plot points because, as already mentioned and from what the trailer reveals, this film could've probably have stood on it's own without having to use the title. They should have named it The Kung Fu African-American Kid in China.

The original "Karate Kid" was charming and appealing because of its fine, understated performances (especially by the usually hammy Pat Morita), and its small-scale production. The same thing that hurt the sequels will also hurt the remake: big-budget foolishness.

I'm also tired of seeing the sinister asian stereotype; enough already. How about a Chinese boy moving to South LA and getting his butt kicked by African-American thugs, only to be saved by an African-American maintenance man? How would that play?

Also, why call it "Karate Kid" when there's NO karate in it??

No way am i going to watch this garbage. Shouldnt mess with a classic.

It's a pretty good trailer, and I'm a Jackie Chan fan. But as a single guy in his 30's with no kids, I can't really go see the movie in theaters without looking like a pedophile. Oh well. There's always the USA Network two years from now.

Why bother? Oh, yeah - just so you can put your kid in a film. Give me a break.

Why is this movie called the Karate Kid? Shouldn't it be named the Kung-Fu Kid? In the original movie, Ralph Macchio is taught Karate, hence the name of the movie. In this remake, Jackie Chan is teaching the kid Kung Fu not Karate. I'm a little confused.

So dumb. If Will Smith wasn't the producer of his own son's movie maybe I would not be disgusted. Also, these are little kids. Watching Jackie Chan beat up some little kids is not like Pat Morita fighting with high school guys that are bigger than him.


Pretty awful...

Last I heard, they had yet to decide if it would be called "Karate Kid," "Kungfu Kid" or something different. Yes, this is KungFu and not Karate. And as such it could be perceived as a slight to both Japanese and Chinese martial art(ist)s. But let's face it, the main reason these people are putting out this movie is to make money. And that they will do.

Jackie Chan has admitted in previous interviews that he wasn't really trained as a martial artist but instead as an acrobat. And as such he has done an absolutely FANTASTIC job immitating a martial artist in films for so many years. And Jaden Smith appears to have picked up a lot more than many adults who have starred in so-called "martial arts" films who had no prior experience. So I think he quality of the film should be fine.

But what was wrong with the original that you feel the need to mess with it in a remake like this, particularly one that is actually quite different? Wasn't it bad enough to have Hillary Swank in the remake/sequel back in the 1990's? Ralph Macchio never learned much Karate and Hillary was even worse. But that's not really the point, is it? The quality of the Karate isn't as important as the underlying story... (or else they might have chosen ME for a part in KK3, for which I was requested to audition back in 1988; true story). And it may be worth noting that the first Karate Kid was also somewhat of a remake - maybe more accurately "inspired by other movie(s)" - as there was at least one other film made in China in the 1970's that had a similar theme. There may have been a few of them, actually. Personally, I really liked the story. I already knew far more Karate by the time the first movie came out than Ralph & Pat ever did. But I could overlook that the same way a cop can overlook many of the flaws in a good film involving police scenarios.

Having physically crossed paths with both Jackie Chan & Pat Morita at different points, I know that they are/were different yet both very good at acting and can help save a movie otherwise severely flawed and frail without them.

I will see this movie. But I think it's definitely going to involve a rental, as opposed to a trip to the theater.

I think that the title "Karate Kid" is used on this new one is because the storyline is similar to the original and attract more people go to see it for that reason. But, I agree that it should use its own unique move title as "Kung Fu Kid".

In other part of the world, e.g. in Asia, it'll be named as "Kung Fu Kid" instead.

I'll see it just because the movie is taken place in Beijing, China and it seems more interesting than the original.

There are two explanations for the title remaining 'Karate Kid':

The first is that Kungfu Panda holds the rights for use of 'Kungfu' in a title - not sure exactly how that works but this is the reason given by Jackie Chan on his website for the title.

The second is internal to the film and revealed by the director in an interview recently and that is that like Daniel-san, Jayden's character is learning Karate albeit 21st century style via the internet - when he gets to China he learns a painful lesson as to why this is not a good idea! Mr Han (Jackie Chan) then teaches the 'karate kid' a real skill.

The third explanation is even simpler and is just my opinion and that is - having paid however many $$$ to use the title and storyline who is going to waste $$$ by changing it! It has a brand identity - every one over a certain age will know 'Karate Kid' and to be honest even all the negativity about the title is 'good' - what was that adage about there being no such thing as bad publicity?

Having seen both trailer and teaser I think the movie is looking good and am looking forward to seeing it.

Lets face it yall the people going to see this movie will be mostly kids born after 95 may even after that, they are not comparing this movie to the original karate kid , thats if they have even seen the movie. The 13 year old girls will go crazy, and the boys will want to be just like him. If jayden is in the movie then lets face it, its for kids. If your 28 or older get over it, and go buy the remastered dvd version of karate kid 1 2 and 3 and let the new generation have their version of the karate kid/kungfu kid. I think this will be a good kid movie. Stop hating there have been alot worse big budget bad remakes.

Everything about this causes me to spasm with agony. I hope it fails horrifically. No more of these pointless, borderline blashpemous remakes. No more. Hollywood has become so devoid of original material that it's a joke to go to the movies anymore. Anybody know why Avatar has grossed over $2 billion? Anybody? Because, technological advances aside, IT'S NOT A DAMNED REMAKE. It's made $2 billion because audiences are STARVING for new material. When will the industry figure this out? How many stupid remakes of perfectly good movies do we need before the message finally gets conveyed? My 3-year-old daughter LOVES the movies I grew up with; they're not "old" to her because she can't comprehend that yet, and that's the proper way to introduce kids to classic movies... NOT by remaking them ad nauseam. Everybody, PLEASE stop going to see crap like this. If you support it with your dollars, Hollywood will make more. WE have to stop it; it's OUR job. Let's get to work.

Actually, the original Karate Kids films WEREN'T about Japanese Karate-it's stated in the film series that it was Okinawan, and that's where they visited. Now I know that Okinawa is a prefecture of Japan, but the martial arts styles are quite different! Mr. Miyagi could have been a family member of the late Chogun Miyagi, a master of the Goju Ryu system, one of the forefunners of the Isshinryu system (which I happen to study). This is even more apparant when Daniel performs a kata-it's Seiuchin, an Isshinryu form.

Given the assinine comments present within several of the post here : "sinister asian stereotype","piece of garbage",I'm single and 30ish I'll look like a pedophile if I go"; I personally was 20 when the original was released,I can live with the embarassment, that Smith invested Millions of dollars just to make a star of a son that could have co stared with his parents for free!Jesus!!!! It would seem that the Smiths should just call it The Kung Fu Kid world wide. Personally, I believe most sublimely ignorant Americans wouldn't know the difference between the various martial arts of Asia, and this is the reason for holding on to the original title in AH mer re ka.

I think all the "karate/kung-fu" remarks are bogus..."KARATE" in itself is sometimes considered to be a broad topic. I also agree with one of the previous writers, there have actually been worse remakes. Also, about the remark about Chan fighting the kids...you let 12 young men jump you and see if you don't defend yourself. And last, the movie already has the name, wheather we approve or not, so let this generation watch it. When you eat your chicken, you don't eat the bones do you? The original movie will always remain the first and best because it is what gave me the desire to try martial arts and now I am a shcool owner...so who is to say that another twelve year old may not say the same thing in 24 years...

I dont think it'll be too bad really...the name, if they use it, would be completely retarded though...& the reason, that I believe at least, for remking the original film is so the next generations can enjoy it...I was born in '89 & I love the movie & am actually watching it right now...but my younger siblings have no interest in it because it looks so old & is poorly made for our standers now...I think it was a great idea to remake...I would love it if my siblings would watch it & get the same message from it as I did...I just hope it doesn't turn out to be completely lame & they dont try to make sequil after sequil...no matter how good a movie is, eventually they need to stop...They end up just messing the whole thing up

The Karate Kid was really dumb. It just happened to be the first "Martial Arts empowering" movie that featured a white dude kicking A--. The sequels were dumber. This is the FIRST Martial Arts movie produced by Americans that I take seriously. The others are all foreign made: Crouching Tiger (China), Fighter (Denmark), Ip Man (Hong Kong). Jaden Smith ROCKS. And I wasn't sure he was gonna work. But Seriously, I don't want Jackie Chan to try to be Mr. Miyagi II. Duh, he's CHINESE! Miyagi was from Okinowa. *Ahem, does the CRITIC ABOVE know this? ??

Who cares. It is only a movie. If you don't want to watch it then don't.

It doesn't matter who made it, (White, Black, Asian - or if you are red whit or blue), it's ONLY a movie and its purpose is to entertain or recreation.

ALL movies are flawed and again, it's purpose is to entertain.

Dumbfounded. We're all just same lil' asian broads aren't we, Hollywood. It's 2010, not the 80s. We had numerous movies showing all these wonderful cultures and now this crap that gets Karate and Gung Fu, Japanese and Chinese form of art all tangled up. Entertainment? Let's create more Ms. Teen South Carolina 2007: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj3iNxZ8Dww

This kid is a phenom. I taught Tae Kwon Do to 6-13 year olds for 20 years. I am a 2nd degree black. This movie is current and he may be younger than Daniel, but children mature quicker and are put into dangerous circumstances sooner than in the 1980's. I think it will be a kick-butt movie and I can't wait to see!

the original karate kid films are classics (even if they are cheesy) . some things should not be remade. the only good thing is that people will remember what a great entertainer mr macchio was and hopefully we will see more of him soon.

Please read before you post. Jackie Chan stated on his website copywrite issues with the title 'Kung fu'. Jaden also learns karate on youtube before he moves which doesn't work thence the karate. Stop talking if you're not informed. They're not mixing up Chinese or Japanese. Thus - Mr. Han not Mr. Miyagi. The karate kid sequels sucked. The original was good. Maybe they wont make a mistake and try to produce sequels of this one too.

I only read this b/c it was written by the talented Ms. Kaufman.

The original Karate Kid is a classic, no question about that. But it was painfully obvious that Ralph Macchio had NO martial arts skills. I've seen the trailer for this new rendition and I must say I was very impressed. Jaden Smith obviously has had martial arts training, and I believe this will be a fresh spin on an 80's classic. The martial arts skills of the cast in this new movie has been kicked up a huge notch. It doesn't matter if it's karate, kung-fu, or whatever (majority of americans don't know the difference anyway). Don't take the title so literal. No one cared if the title was accurate in the 80's. Yes, it's Will Smith's son. So what? It shouldn't matter who the star is as long as he has the talent to pull it off. Come on people, get over yourselves. All the bad-mouthing just sounds like you're hating on Will and Jaden.

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