12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) could've been the most popular kid in Detroit, but his mother's (Taraji P. Henson) latest career move has landed him in China. Dre immediately falls for his classmate Mei Ying - and the feeling is mutual - but cultural differences make such a friendship impossible. Even worse, Dre's feelings make an enemy of the class bully, Cheng. In the land of kung fu, Dre knows only a little karate, and Cheng puts "the karate kid" on the floor with ease. With no friends in a strange land, Dre has nowhere to turn but maintenance man Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), who is secretly a master of kung fu. As Han teaches Dre that kung fu is not about punches and parries, but maturity and calm, Dre realizes that facing down the bullies will be the fight of his life.
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