The Karate Kid has a story you could write on the back of fly swatter. A young boy and his mother move to China where the boy encounters kung-fu-learning bullies and subsequently learns the way of true kung-fu from a maintenance man. It may be obvious what’s going to happen at nearly every turn but this film is all about the journey and as family films go, it’s a good journey.
China is a touchy subject so seeing it portrayed as such a lovely place with such lovely buildings is a bit disconcerting but the polar opposite would have been equally so. But there’s no doubting the country’s beauty which provides a wonderful backdrop for some well-made kung-fu learning montages.
Stepping into the shoes of the original film’s Mr Miyagi is Jackie Chan as Mr Han. Chan, as well as the star of the show young Jaden Smith, truly shine, turning an average family film into something much more enjoyable. Smith channels everything that made his father Will one of the biggest stars on the planet into a great performance that will hopefully serve as a platform for future success. However it’s Chan who really surprises, bringing an unexpected level of emotional depth to his character, culminating in a remarkable scene that really packs a punch.
The climax of the film is the kung-fu tournament in which Smith’s character Dre takes on his bullies and their arsehole trainer. Well-shot and genuinely exciting fights mean watching children hit each other has never been so entertaining. And if that’s not enough reason to go Chan takes on a whole group of pre-teens in one scene.
The Karate Kid is a good family film well worth a trip to the cinema this summer. It may suffer on occasion from the unavoidable perils of child actors but Chan and Smith’s performances make up for that. For my money it’s better than the iconic original and remakes don’t get heftier praise than that.