When Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) and his mother (Taraji P. Henson) move from Detroit to China, Dre feels lost in a world very different from what he knows. Bullied and beaten up by some fellow students in his school, Dre is rescued by his apartment building’s handyman, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), a man who is mourning a devastating loss. Mr. Han takes pity on Dre and agrees to teach him kung fu to defend himself. Training together, teacher and student learn to trust each other, and ultimately form a friendship that heals them both.
A remake of the 1984 film of the same name, The Karate Kid well exceeds expectations, delivering a powerful viewing experience filled with action-packed martial arts scenes, great footage of China and its many wonders, and an absorbing story of a preadolescent boy's struggle to find his own inner strength. The title Karate Kid is really a misnomer as it is the art of kung fu that is practiced in this remake, not karate, and other details, including the film's setting in China, also differ from the original film. What remains the same, and just as powerful, is the underlying story: a young boy moves to a new place where he feels isolated and is bullied by his peers. Through an unlikely relationship with an adult, the boy not only learns to protect himself through martial arts, but develops the much more important qualities of respect and the mastery of one's own mind and body. Relative newcomer Jaden Smith (son of actors and producers Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith) is excellent as the main character Drek Parker; Jackie Chan gives a restrained and highly effective performance as his mentor Mr. Han; and Zhenwei Wang is eerily believable as the bully Chen. This is an intense and often violent film that fully engulfs its viewers--be prepared to gasp and cheer out loud, and know that you may never look at the act of putting on and taking off a jacket in the same way again. (Ages 8 and older with parental guidance) --Tami Horiuchi