PG-13. Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan.

Firstly, being the pop culture junkie that I am, I have seen the original version from 1984 with Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita about 50 times if not more. It remains a classic and cannot and will not ever be replaced.

That said, this is a fresh and exciting new take on the Karate Kid. The film is not without flaws, yet catches your attention from the start and keeps you hooked until the climatic fight scenes at the end.

The script is very similar to the original with the main changes being that the backdrop for the movie is China.

Jaden Smith proves to be an effective leading man even at such a young age. He takes the role of “Daniel San” from Ralph Macchio and makes it his own with a mixture of smooth cool and fuzzy adorability. Having  just moved to China, he is the new kid on the block and soon enough is targeted by a group of bullies. The fight scenes are not child’s play and I honestly found it hard to watch Jaden Smith get pummeled by a 12 year old Bruce Lee psychopath.

Of course, “Mr Miyagi” is filled in by the more than  adequate Jackie Chan, who brings more depth and emotion to his character than I had expected. He comes to save “Daniel San” from a particular nasty beating and then embarks upon training the young boy in the arts of kung-fu so he can protect himself. Somehow they get away with keeping the title “The Karate Kid” by making a plug about the contradiction in the film itself.  The film is so much fun that is does not bother you anyway.

A series of intense training exercises ensue where “Daniel San” is taught the way of kung fu. While this is all happening there is a sub plot involving a romance between the young boy and a pretty chinese girl that he meets.  A particularly amusing scene involves a dance contest between them both, where they get to show off some moves. The girl ends up getting the upper hand with a somewhat suggestive dance that she does to a Lady Gaga song.

It all plods along well enough and keeps you entertained, but then the real action begins. The last 10 minutes of the film is by far the best. “Daniel San” enters the tournament to compete against his rivals and prove his strength. These fight sequences are nothing short of thrilling. We see 11 year old kids whizzing about the mat doing all kinds of extraordinary martial arts. It truly does keep you on the edge of your seat and you are rooting for “Daniel San” to kick some serious butt!

Another revamped franchise has been born as well as a rising star called Jaden Smith. You can expect “Karate Kid II” in theaters soon enough.  I know i’ll be standing in line to see it.  4/5 stars

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