While it’s clearly the inferior movie, the new Karate Kid isn’t without it’s charms. These charms are mostly found in the supporting cast who aside from the occasional questionable child actor is pretty spot on. Both Jackie Chan and the immeasurable Taraji P. Henson are warm and funny and touching throughout the film. Jaden Smith has a couple of good moments but he’ll need to work hard to be more than a cute face.
Like most Hollywood movies, this new Karate Kid tries to outdo it’s predecessor by making the story more epic in scale and unrealistic. This leaves the film in a very hollow place unfortunately and while there is very little chance of reviewing this film without comparing it to the original, some comparisons are warranted. In the new film Smith moves to Hong Kong and must learn Kung Fu from Jackie Chan to protect himself. This begs the question of why the movie wasn’t titled ‘the Kung Fu Kid’ since no one in the movie even uses Karate. In fact, the only time the word is used is when someone mistakenly calls it Karate and then is chastised for it. Too bad the producers didn’t read that part of script! So little Smith is going to fight bullies that have been practicing Kung Fu all their lives, they flip through the air, pull off tightly choreographed grapple and flip maneuvers but still won’t be a match for little Smith who has a good few weeks of training under his belt. In fact, everytime you see one of the antagonists fight, the shots are long, wide and show all of the impressive moves, while Smith’s moves are chopped up in editing so you can’t see that he can’t fight and the moves you do see are mostly a combination of dancing and ducking.
The cinematography is well done and the movie looks slick. The soundtrack is marred by a Justin Beiber single featuring Smith that leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Too bad little Smith is next in line for the highly credible (read sarcastic) hot seat that child performers are forcibly seated in. Will the Smiths be as pointless as the Jonas Brothers or just implode like the Jacksons? Anyone questioning that logic should watch the myriad of scenes in which the twelve year old is sexualized, with his shirt off or practically getting a lapdance from his new girlfriend. These scenes aren’t a problem had his character been cast a little older, a year or two at the least, but then it wouldn’t have been a Smith vehicle.
In a final analysis, the new Karate Kid film was titled poorly and only to add franchise recognition. The film could have been worse and did have one or two additions that were welcome and well done, but the magic of the first movie was not here and at a running time some where near two and half hours it’s an investment that doesn’t quite return.