Francesca Rudkin is an entertainment reviewer for NZ Herald.

Review: The Karate Kid

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Rating: 3/5
Verdict: A serious - and seriously long - sports flick for kids

The spirit of the original The Karate Kid lives on in this remake, but with plenty of changes it stands apart from the 1984 version and will appeal to a whole new, young, martial arts-loving audience who might wonder why it wasn't called The Kung-Fu Kid instead.

It's brought to you by the Pinkett-Smith family - Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith produced the film which stars their son, Jaden Smith - who appeared with his dad in The Pursuit of Happyness - as 12-year-old Dre Parker.

Like the original, it's about a bullied teenager who learns tolerance, perseverance and how to stand up for himself, from an eccentric mentor. One of the main differences is the setting - Dre moves from Detroit to China with his mother, where he is bullied by a group of black belt classmates.

When the apartment maintenance man Mr Han (Jackie Chan) rescues Dre from a brutal beating, he organises a truce between Dre and his tormenters. A deal is struck - the gang will leave Dre alone as long as he agrees to fight them in a kung-fu tournament. Fortunately Mr Han turns out to be a master of kung-fu.

From this point The Karate Kid is like any other sports film, with plenty of music-driven training montages set in scenic spots (such as the Great Wall) as the underdog transforms himself.

And much like Po from Kung-Fu Panda, Dre learns there is more to the martial art than just throwing fast punches, and that if he is going to successfully face his nemesis Cheng, he's going to have to believe in himself.

Smith does well in the physical and dramatic sides, but he's let down by his skills as a comedian.

Great chemistry between Smith and Chan, and well rounded characters, give this film plenty of heart, even if it has an air of predictability. Still the update is much less cheesy than the original, with director Zwart more interested in presenting a serious drama than a fun family film. It comes with touches of humour including a few spoofs of the original, but its 140-minute running time is way too long for its target audience.

Cast: Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith Taraji P. Henson
Director: Harald Zwart
Running time: 140 mins
Rating: PG (medium level violence)

- NZ Herald

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