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Movie Review: The Karate Kid

The Karate Kid movie poster 

                     Now Blu-Ray on DVD October 5, 2010

There is a new kid in town and he will steal your heart. Trading Karate for the Chinese practice of Kung Fu, Jaden Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness) travels to Beijing, China to study from the master, Jackie Chan (Rush Hour). I cannot say enough good things about this film. I was enthralled from the very beginning and I loved the journey that took us through China both old and new. From the cinematography, to the music, to the heartfelt performances, The Karate Kid does not disappoint and does honor to the original film.

In THE KARATE KID (2010), Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) plays a single mother who is transfered to China along with her twelve year old son. On his very first day, Dre makes the mistake of talking to the wrong pretty girl and receives the beating of his life. Zhenwei Wang plays Cheng, the vicious leader of a group of boys. They all study at the same Karate School under a ruthless, sadistic teacher. When Dre can no longer stomach living in fear, he begs the janitor, Mr. Han (Chan) to teach him how to fight. Mr. Han stops the boys right in the middle of savage drubbing where he literally ties the gang up in knots. Dre has discovered a newfound respect for the insular custodian, and Mr. Han has found a ready pupil.

The training of Dre takes us through China at its best. We see a beautiful country struggling to respect its past, while expanding and embracing its future. I fell in love with the country and the people within. What a wonderful love letter to China. The bond between Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith was also a thing to behold. It was natural, close knit and warm. You really believe in the relationship.

Young Jaden Smith proved that he could act playing opposite of his father Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness. But in this film he shows us even more. He was cocky, without being precocious, impudent without being insolent, and scared without being cowardly. He showed tenacity, courage, sensitivity and compassion. It is a finely nuanced performance for such a young man.

Relieved of the lion’s share of martial arts in this film, Jackie Chan was able to concentrate on his acting, showing us colors that we have not seen before. Without the responsibility of fighting his way out of every scene he was able to reveal his vulnerable side. When he finally breaks down and is consoled by Jaden Smith, it is truly a touching scene. Without all the comedy and Kung Fu distractions, Jackie Chan shows us that he too, can act.

Watching this film I saw two new action stars in the making. The intensity and focus that these young men displayed was mind-blowing and awesome to see. In ten year’s time these boys will be formidable. I can easily see young Wang as the next Jet Li. The look on his face is fierce and frightening. Jaden Smith is also in for a fabulous career. At twelve years old he is already cut and chiseled like a competitive athlete. Girls of America, watch out! Your new heartthrob has arrived.

Melanie Wilson
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