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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Will Smith

Will Smith's 'Men in Black 3' censored in China

May 31, 2012 | 11:34 am

"Men in Black 3" is the latest film to face the wrath of Chinese censors.

At least three minutes of Sony's sci-fi comedy have been excised for its Chinese theatrical run, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who was not authorized to speak about it publicly.

The offending moments take place in New York's Chinatown. They include a Chinese-restaurant shootout between evil aliens and Will Smith's Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones' Agent K -- the aliens are disguised as restaurant workers -- as well as a moment when Smith’s J  “neuralyzes,” or memory-wipes, a group of Chinese bystanders.

A Chinese paper, the China Southern Daily, speculated that the latter scene may have been cut because it could be viewed as a comment on China's censorship of the Internet.

The news was first reported in the English-language press by Britain’s Daily Telegraph, which pegged the total time of the cuts at 13 minutes.

"MIB 3" opened to more than $21 million in China last weekend, by far the largest total of any of the more than 50 foreign territories in which the movie bowed.

Chinese law limits the number of Hollywood movies that can be shown in its theaters, prompting studios to be unusually careful about any China-related content they include in their films. In this case, Sony learned of the Chinese government’s objections after the film had been completed.

This is hardly the first time a Hollywood movie has been altered for mainland release. A moment in "Mission: Impossible 3" featuring laundry hanging in Shanghai, for instance, was removed before the film was shown in China. Scenes of the Hong Kong actor Chow Yun-fat playing a villain in “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” were also expunged.

Studios are sometimes proactive in removing scenes themselves. MGM changed in postproduction the nationality of villains in its upcoming "Red Dawn" reboot, digitally transforming them from Chinese to North Korean.

Sony is no stranger to working with the Chinese government. The company collaborated with the Asian nation on its 2010 reboot of "The Karate Kid," which was shot in Beijing and other parts of the country and offered a generally positive view of life on the mainland -- and starred Will Smith's son, Jaden.

You can see some of the Chinatown scenes in this trailer:



'Men in Black 3' was no easy sequel to make

Hollywood tries to stay on China's good side

'Men in Black 3' is Memorial Day's top weekend movie

 -- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Men in Black 3." Credit: Sony Pictures

Box Office: 'Men in Black 3' blasts away competition [Video]

May 29, 2012 |  2:02 pm

Men in Black 3 grossed 70 million dollars at the box office this weekend
After four weeks atop the box office, "The Avengers" finally had to settle for the runner-up position.

"Men in Black 3" dethroned the superhero flick, raking in $70 million over the four-day Memorial Day weekend. The movie ended up grossing around $203 million worldwide by weekend's end -- roughly $50 million less than industry projections had indicated the film would debut with.

Meanwhile, the low-budget horror flick "Chernobyl Diaries" had a dismal opening, collecting a weak $9.3 million. To make matters worse, the few moviegoers who saw the film hated it, assigning it an average grade of D+, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

There were some success stories in the independent film world, however. Both Wes Anderson's 1960s-set quirky dramedy "Moonrise Kingdom" and the French foreign-language film "The Intouchables" performed well in limited release.

For more on this week's hits and misses at the multiplex, check out our latest box office video report.


'Men' fights well but misses a prediction

'Men in Black 3' was no easy sequel to make

'Moonrise Kingdom' sets per-screen-average box office record

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: Will Smith stars in "Men in Black 3." Credit: Sony Pictures

'Men in Black 3' a blast from the past, critics say

May 25, 2012 |  1:18 pm

Men in Black 3

After a 10-year absence from the big screen, agents J and K (Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, respectively) are back to save the world from aliens (yes, again) in "Men in Black 3." After the widely panned "MIB2," this third installment is all about time travel — both in terms of plot and in trying to recapture the quirky fun of the original 1997 film. For many critics, the film has done just that, largely thanks to the addition of Josh Brolin.

The Times' own Betsy Sharkey writes, "'Men in Black 3' has got the MIB mojo back — well, most of it anyway." The film "has recovered some of the brashness and all of the unbridled affection for the weird, wonky otherworldly types that made the initial 1997 cosmic comedy such a kick," and Brolin's turn as K's younger self is "a casting coup." Brolin channels Jones "brilliantly" without sticking to a slavish impersonation, and the end result is "campy fun if not quite a classic."

The New York Times' A.O. Scott finds "MIB3" to be a movie "with no particular agenda. Which may be part of the reason it turns out to be so much fun." Though the film starts slowly, eventually "it swerves into some marvelously silly, unexpectedly witty and genuinely fresh territory," Scott says. Jemaine Clement ("Flight of the Conchords"), playing a time-hopping supervillain, brings "thunderous mock pomposity" to the proceedings, while Brolin is "uncanny and hilarious." Other game cast members include Alice Eve, Bill Hader and Michael Stuhlbarg.

Ty Burr, of the Boston Globe, calls Brolin "the film's most remarkable special effect." His performance, Burr says, "is funny, masterful, confident, and more than a little unsettling." The rest of the film "is about as good as one could hope for from an unnecessary sequel that’s a decade late to the party." Burr agrees with Scott that the first act drags and the story "feels pro forma," but once things get going there are moments of "deft, absurdist entertainment."

Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun-Times, deems "MIB3" "better than the first one" and echoes Burr in calling Brolin's young Agent K "the movie's most impressive achievement." The film also offers "an ingenious plot, bizarre monsters [and] audacious cliff-hanging," if that's your thing.

Hearst film critic Amy Biancolli ranks "Men in Black 3" as "not quite as fresh" as the original film but "a heck of a lot better" than the second. "Abundant humor, dabs of heartbreak and a suspenseful, vertiginous climax go a long way toward compensating for any logical lapses or cliches."

A few critics have proved somewhat immune to Brolin's charms, including the Village Voice's Nick Pinkerton, who writes that the actor does "a fair TLJ impersonation." It's not enough to save the film from "ubiquitous timidity" and "bland formula."

Whether J and K will return for future adventures remains to be seen. But in a world populated by aliens and time travelers, stranger things have happened.


'Men in Black 3' was no easy sequel to make

'Men in Black 3': Rick Baker’s ongoing search for alien life

Movie Projector: 'Men in Black 3' debut to take out 'Avengers'

— Oliver Gettell

Photo: Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in "Men in Black 3." Credit: Wilson Webb / Columbia Pictures

Will color return to this year's Oscar season?

September 21, 2011 |  8:31 am


When Oscar nominations were announced earlier this year, it was impossible to avoid this unsubtle fact: All of the major nominees were white. And when the presenters had all taken their turn on the Kodak Theatre stage, not a single black man was among them, a fact that Samuel Jackson noted tartly in an email to a Times reporter.

It was a sharp turn from the 2009-10 season, when “Precious” and "The Blind Side" drew numerous accolades, and there were black nominees for best director, best picture and best actress (and black winners for best supporting actress and best adapted screenplay).

For anyone concerned about which way the Oscars could go this year, there's reason to take heart. As a new season gets underway, there are signs the Oscars could return to the diversity of two years ago. In fact, the show this year could match and even surpass those landmark events -- and not only because Eddie Murphy is presiding (the first black host since Chris Rock in 2004) or because Oprah Winfrey will be given the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award,  the academy's honorary Oscar. It's the potential nominees themselves who offer the prospect of a more diverse Oscars.

And it could happen, notably, on the basis of more than just  one or two films -- and without the help of Oscar stalwarts such as Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, Halle Berry or Will Smith, none of whom have new movies this year.

Driving the expectations, of course, is the Southern drama "The Help." Oscar handicappers are already predicting a best actress nomination for Viola Davis, while Octavia Spencer could be in the mix too, likely in the supporting category.

There's also T.J. Martin, co-director of the documentary "The Undefeated,” which was a hit at the South by Southwest festival in March and wowed crowds at the Toronto Film Festival last week. A football documentary about a black high school in Memphis, Tenn., the movie is getting a release from Weinstein Co. and has a solid shot at a doc nomination. Martin would be only the second black director ever to be nominated in the documentary category.

But it's hardly just those films, or even race-themed movies in general, that could color in the Oscars. Steve McQueen, director of "Shame" (about a sex addict and dysfunctional sibling relationship, not about race at all), generated buzz at early fall film festivals and is shaping up as a strong contender this season. If the sophomore filmmaker lands the nomination, he would become only the third black director to ever be nominated.

(Asked about the subject of race and the Oscars in an interview with 24 Frames, McQueen said he wanted to think about it a little more before answering and would get back to us later in the season. The BAFTA winner did note that he believed racism, both in the entertainment business and society at large, was far worse in his native Britain than the United States.)

Joining these Oscar hopefuls is director Dee Rees and the actors of "Pariah," a favorite from this past year's Sundance Film Festival that features an almost entirely black cast and deals as much with themes of sexuality as with race. Focus Features is releasing the micro-indie and is expected to give it an awards push.

Davis may also have a shot at a supporting actress nomination with her part in Stephen Daldry's much-anticipated (though so far unseen) 9/11-themed literary adaptation "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close."

At a time when black actors say there's a dearth of meaty parts, it's hard not to find at least some encouragement in all of this. A new class of black actors is getting a bit more of a toehold in prestige movies -- witness Davis springboarding to these parts from her role in "Doubt" a few years back.

Hollywood still makes fewer serious movies than it has in a long time, and minorities struggle to land parts in those films. But the early indications, at least, are that the Oscars this year look a little less like the rest of Hollywood and a bit more like the real world.


'Shame' director surprised by controversy

Does Hollywood discriminate against young black actors?

'The Help' is fine, but is Hollywood ignoring modern black life?

-- Steven Zeitchik


 Photo: Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis in "The Help." Credit: DreamWorks

Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Django Unchained': Are you ready to see him play a bad guy?

June 8, 2011 |  6:23 pm


It's no surprise that Leonardo DiCaprio would sign on for a role in a Quentin Tarantino movie. The filmmaker is one of the few big-name directors with whom the 36-year old actor hasn't already worked -- he's previously collaborated, of course, with Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg and Christopher Nolan, and he will next partner up with Aussie director Baz Luhrmann in "The Great Gatsby."

What is surprising is that DiCaprio is in talks for a supporting role in Tarantino's slavery revenge tale, "Django Unchained," a really, really despicable role. The part, according to press reports, is for Calvin Candie, the plantation owner and slave proprietor who gets his jollies out of watching slaves fight to the death and has no problem beating his own when they don't follow orders.

DiCaprio can clearly do wonders with character -- his Howard Hughes in "The Aviator" and Billy Costigan in "The Departed" were plenty tormented and conflicted -- but he's before never portrayed a truly evil man. Although the role of Candie in "Django Unchained" would be a complete about-face for DiCaprio, do audiences really want to see the heartthrob tackle a nasty, heartless character?

Time will tell. "Django Unchained" is supposed to begin filming at the end of the year. No word still on who will play the hero of the film, though Will Smith is supposedly considering the part. It would be a remarkable feat if Tarantino could land both actors to go mano-a-mano in a project that's destined to generate as least as much controversy as the director's most recent movie, "Inglourious Basterds."

--Nicole Sperling

Photo: Leonardo DiCaprio in"The 11th Hour." Credit: Chuck Castleberry / Eleventeen Productions

Does Hollywood discriminate against young black actors?

March 4, 2011 |  3:25 pm

Shortly after the Oscars ended Sunday, Samuel L. Jackson sent an e-mail to a Times reporter wondering why no black men had been chosen to present awards on the film world's biggest stage.

"It's obvious there's not ONE Black male actor in Hollywood that's able to read a teleprompter, or that's 'hip enuf,' for the new academy demographic!" Jackson wrote. "In the Hollywood I saw tonite, I don't exist nor does Denzel, Eddie, Will, Jamie, or even a young comer like Anthony Mackie!"

Jackson may be on to something, at least when it comes to the young comers.

There is still a sizable number of black actors in Hollywood with box-office clout and meaty roles, a point that will be underscored when the NAACP hands out its annual Image Awards in Los Angeles Friday night. Will Smith is the biggest movie star in the world, a title he's held now for several years, and Denzel Washington remains at the peak of his box-office powers.

But most of the prominent male black stars sit on the other side of 40. The best known of the next generation -- say, Derek Luke (36), Chiwetel Eijofor (33), Idris Elba (39) and Mackie (31) -- are not only less influential, they're not nearly as popular in their 30s as the previous crop was at their age. (Washington, for instance, had already won an Oscar and made "Glory," "Malcolm X" and "Philadelphia" before he hit the big 4-0.)

That's not because any of these actors aren't capable of pulling off a "Malcolm X" or a "Philadelphia," of course. It's because they're not given the chance. Mackie has one of the more substantive studio roles for a younger black actor in a while as Matt Damon's guardian angel in this weekend's "The Adjustment Bureau." But it's hardly the role of a lifetime.

"It's frustrating that the movies I want to make I haven't been able to make," Mackie told 24 Frames. "Orlando Bloom was given 15 opportunities after 'Lord of the Rings.' Black men are given no opportunities."

Race in Hollywood is a subject close to Mackie's heart. He's studiously avoided the "Who's Your Caddys" and "Big Momma's Houses" of the film world, going instead to indies such as "The Hurt Locker" and, almost as frequently, to the stage.

"In the  early 1990's, every black actor you know now was starting out and making movies. They were  making more movies under Daddy Bush than we are under Obama, which is ridiculous," Mackie said.

The scarcity of black roles in 2011 is partly a function of fewer movies being made, and certainly fewer serious-minded movies at the studios. When Washington and Smith were coming up, there were routinely chances to make those types of films. (Smith made "Six Degrees of Separation" with MGM when he was 24 and in the middle of shooting a network sitcom.) Now you need to go indie or wait for lightning to strike at a studio.

The growth of the black-comedy niche may also have, paradoxically, resulted in fewer opportunities, as black actors get cordoned off in the land of "Soul Plane."

But while some studio executives will privately say they're simply reacting to the marketplace realities when it comes to casting younger black actors in lead roles of mainstream films, the actors don't buy it. "They say there's not an audience for black stars, but that's because you're not feeding [audiences] them," Mackie said.

Actors can take a long time to develop their talents and establish a relationship with an audience. The dearth of young black actors may be obscured in 2011, with Washington and Smith -- not to mention Don Cheadle, Jamie Foxx, Forest Whitaker and others -- still making movies. But one wonders what type of entertainment world we'll be occupying when these stars are in their 50s and 60s and Hollywood has cultivated almost no one to take their place.

--Steven Zeitchik



Anthony Mackie adjusts to film roles

Men in Black III pushed back again

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter star: Our movie will be educational

Photo: Anthony Mackie, left, John Slattery and others in "The Adjustment Bureau." Credit: Universal Pictures 

'Men in Black III' production pushed back again

February 15, 2011 |  2:29 pm

EXCLUSIVE: The theme song goes, “Here come the Men in Black.” But they’re not coming so fast.

After a hiatus of nearly two months, "Men in Black III," the third installment in the sci-fi/comedy franchise, was to resume production this week in New York. But studio Sony and the film's producers have pushed back the production date again. Shooting is now delayed to March 28 owing to ongoing script issues, according to a person close to the 3-D production who was not authorized to speak about it publicly.

The delay comes on the heels of a previous postponement and hiatus. The Will Smith sequel was initially set to start shooting in October. But producers delayed the start date by nearly a month (a New York Post report at the time noted creative disagreements between Smith and filmmakers, a report that Sony denied). About a month later, producers opted to break production of the film into two phases: the first part, set in the present, would begin in November and wrap before the holidays (it in fact did that), but the second part, set in 1969, would not begin shooting until mid-February.

In the meantime, "Catch Me If You Can" screenwriter Jeff Nathanson was brought in to do new work on the script, working off a previous draft by "Tropic Thunder" writer Etan Cohen.

It's very unusual for a production of such scale to take a holiday break of nearly two months. At the time, producer Walter Parkes and a Sony spokesperson said that a mix of seasonal concerns and tax incentives, not creative disagreements, were responsible for the break.

"We had to start shooting this year to take advantage of New York State tax incentives, but we also needed to be able to shoot certain exteriors in warmer weather," Parkes told 24 Frames last year. "So back in July we had the idea to keep the start date but build in a hiatus so we could essentially extend the production to late spring.”

The person close to the production said that although producers had hoped they could begin shooting this week, the lack of a ready script made that impossible. Parkes and a Sony spokesman were not immediately available for comment.

The plot for the new film, which is being directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (helmer of the first two installments), takes the franchise further into whimsical territory. In addition to Smith as Agent J, Tommy Lee Jones reprises his role as the wisecracking Agent K in the present (the part already shot). Josh Brolin, through a time-travel twist, plays a young Agent K from 1969 who encounters countercultural figures such as Andy Warhol and Yoko Ono, according to a person who read a version of the script in November.

It's unclear if the delays will affect the movie's planned May 2012 release date. [UPDATE, 3:38 PM: A Sony spokesman says the release date will not be affected by the production delay.]

After years of rumors, "Men in Black III" began to come together in 2009, as Sony looked to reprise the magic that made the franchise a global blockbuster. The initial two movies -- the first of which was released in 1997 and the second in 2002 -- tallied a whopping $1.03 billion in combined worldwide box office.

In a recent interview, Brolin told 24 Frames that the delays were making him a little impatient. "It’s one of those things where they say, 'OK, I’m going to go in a week' and then they say, 'Actually, it’s going to be two weeks.' OK, that’s all right. And then they go, 'OK, it’s going to be three,' " he said. "I mean, come on already."

— Steven Zeitchik and Nicole Sperling


Photo: Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smtih in "Men in Black." Credit: Sony Pictures.


Here comes the 'Men in Black' hiatus

Here comes the 'Men in Black' hiatus

November 15, 2010 |  3:48 pm

EXCLUSIVE: After a postponement of roughly a month, Will Smith's upcoming sci-fi comedy "Men In Black 3" will begin shooting tomorrow in New York. But in an unusual move for a big-budget Hollywood film, the production will take a nearly two-month hiatus from filming when it wraps for the holidays.

Two sources close to the 3-D production say the plan is for the film to shoot through the week of Christmas, then shut down until the middle of February, when it will resume.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of sensitivities around the big-budget 3-D movie, say that screenwriter Jeff Nathanson, whose credits include "Catch Me If You Can" and "Rush Hour 2," has also been brought in to begin work this week on a new draft of the film's script. Nathanson will specifically work on the story's time-travel component that sees a leap back to 1969, when Josh Brolin appears as a young Agent Kay (the character made popular by Tommy Lee Jones, who also reprises the role in this film).

"Tropic Thunder" writer Etan Cohen authored the first draft of the screenplay.

The shoot that begins this week will focus on the film's present-day events, while the production that picks up in mid-February will be centered on the 1969 storyline, the sources said.

The schedule likely won't affect the planned release of the film, which is scheduled for May 2012. But production shut-downs are very rare, especially on bigger-budget films, as they tend to drive up costs (the crew must continue to be paid during the shut-down).

The film's producer confirmed the hiatus but said it was not the result of creative disagreement but rather part of a plan conceived months ago that would allow the production to begin in 2010 but allow parts of the movie, which is set in the summer, to shoot in a more temperate climate.

"We had to start shooting this year to take advantage of New York State tax incentives, but we also needed to be able to shoot certain exteriors in warmer weather," producer Walter Parkes said. "So back in July we had the idea to keep the start date but build in a hiatus so we could essentially extend the production to late spring.”

A Sony spokesman on Monday echoed Parkes' statement.

The news of the hiatus comes after reports last month that the third installment of the Smith-led franchise was being pushed back from its October start date -- the second time that the preproduction process was halted -- because of dissenting views on the story among Smith, director Barry Sonnenfeld and the movie's producers.

At the time Sony said the delay was happening for tax-incentive reasons and was not related to any creative disagreement.

The script for "MIB 3" has generated a lot of talk in the blogosphere, particularly for the "Back to The Future"-style plot twist that sends Smith's Agent Jay back to 1969. According to those who've read said script, he travels back in time and meets Andy Warhol (who is secretly an alien) and other counterculture figures such as Yoko Ono and Jimi Hendrix (also secretly aliens).

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in "Men in Black." Credit: Sony Pictures

Is the China of 'The Karate Kid' a credit to that country or a disservice to this one?

June 4, 2010 |  4:51 pm

Observers have been paying close attention to production on "The Kung Fu Kid" "The Karate Kid" since  the movie was announced last year; this has been, after all, more just an attempt to update a quarter-century-old pop classic but Hollywood's largest co-production with China to date.

Kara More on the movie in the coming days, but upon seeing the film this week we couldn't help but notice what will quickly jump out even to casual viewers: the cultural tourism that pervades the film. Clocking in at more than two hours (about the same length as the original), the new movie is extended not by any more time spent hitting the requisite notes -- the forbidden tween romance, the redemptive fight scenes, the menial-but-life-altering training routines -- but by the fetishizing shots of the Chinese landscape.

Nominally incorporated as part of the regimen of young Dre Parker (Jaden Smith), many of these shots exists  to showcase the country's varied (and, as my colleague Patrick Goldstein points out, sanitized) topography. There's a lengthy scene at the Taoist holy site at Wudang Mountain in which we see glorious mountains from below and equally lush valleys from a dramatic cliffside temple above. The Forbidden City is shown as a giant playground for a group of children, free of guards or other tourists (or the chaos and checkered history of Tiananmen Square just outside its walls).

The everyday urban spaces get a similarly romantic treatment. Squares fill with whooshing colors of those practicing martial arts,  and the markets in which Dre and his mother (Taraji P. Henson) try out local delicacies overflow with a kind of vibrant beauty.

There are also gauzy, glamorized shots of the Great Wall, which Dre runs up and down it under the watchful eye of his mentor Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), a kind of Rocky steps for a new generation, or at least for an export-minded corporation.

Director Harald Zwart, studio Sony and the picture's American producers (including Will Smith) took pains to get as much of China in as they can. But it's only a certain kind of China. The images aren't entirely inaccurate, at least according to our own time spent there. But they hardly tell the whole story -- eliding, for starters, hutongs and bicycle crowds and everything else that makes Beijing, well, Beijing. If the head of the country's department of tourism served as the film's D.P., it probably wouldn't look much different.

All of this is clearly meant, at least in part, to show the Chinese government that such a co-production was worthwhile. The government-run film corporation invested about one-eighth of the production budget, as my colleague John Horn reports, and it more than gets its money's worth.

But it's hard not to feel like there was an opportunity squandered. Showing China in the best possible light may appease the government, but it hardly helps American filmgoers, many of whom won't have a chance to see China in person and will have this be one of their main experiences of the country, over several hours in the immersion of a movie theater.  Yes, few going to the multiplex to see "The Karate Kid" next weekend are doing so to to understand Asian culture. But it comes through just the same.

I'm not sure the non-visual messages are any more subtle. The film's general tone toward China is at once deferential and high-handed. The attempt to show the native way of life as somehow more pure and serene, as the film often does, may have seemed like a good way to pay tribute to the country, but it can feel patronizing.

And I'm not sure American audiences won't see through the gambit. It's one thing for a little slice-of-life photography to come through in an East-meets-West film (the second "Karate Kid" did just that in Japan). But even a non-discerning audience can see the difference between local color and a tourist brochure.

Then again, maybe there's a neat symmetry to all of this. Studios have spent decades showcasing American cities to foreign audiences with a healthy amount of creative license, taking an America of the imagination and depicting it as a reality for the benefit of Asian countries. It was only a matter of time before Asia returned the favor.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "The Karate Kid." Credit: Sony Pictures

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


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