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June 11, 2010 > Movie Review: Karate Kid

Movie Review: Karate Kid

By Jennifer Gau

Twelve-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) and his mom (Taraji P. Henson) decide to move from Detroit to Beijing, China to further her career. Right away, Dre has trouble adjusting to China dealing with jet lag, language barriers, and new bullies. Luckily, he makes a few new friends; one of them is the maintenance man, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan). Mr. Han is mysterious but has a good heart. He takes Dre under his wing to help him deal with bullies and break down cultural differences with a cute Chinese girl. The bullies are students of another Kung-Fu master who teaches "No weakness! No pain! No mercy!" Dre discovers a different side of Kung-Fu, it is not about violence, rather peace and calmness.

Director Harald Zwart crafts a family movie full of Kung-Fu action on the rugged streets and among beautiful landmarks in China such as the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. He is able to show character development in Dre Parker without making it too cheesy. With the discovery and distraction of Kung-Fu, Dre is able to make China "home." Zwart uses key characteristics of new experiences in a foreign land such as awkwardness with chopsticks, the transportation system, and foreign language to illustrate that no matter where you are in the world, friends and enemies are the same.

The cast was well chosen and the kids are great portraying peer pressures that plague childhood. They are also very talented martial artists. Action scenes include the right amount of wit and adrenaline but professional Kung-Fu moves may be too violent for a young audience.

Taraji P. Henson played another motherly role in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)." She carries those acting skills into this movie and makes a fitting mother for Dre. Jaden Smith is incredibly talented as a young actor with energy and charisma that made the entire movie enjoyable. However, it may be hard to shine beyond the shadow of his well-known dad, Will Smith.

There are many similarities with the 1984 "Karate Kid" movie but no matter how many years have passed, a good story with good lessons still makes a memorable movie, even after 25 years. Both movies are not about fighting; they are about making peace with your enemy. Kids need good role models. This is a great summer movie for kids and the whole family.

Runtime: 2 hours
Rated: PG

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