Directed by Harold Zwart
Written by Christopher Murphey
I can recall that when this project was first announced there were quite a few groans. Why would they remake a classic? There is no need. I would tend to agree, but sometimes there are remakes that can rejuvenate and refresh the story enough to make it interesting. I like it when a movie is remade and they try to add or change some things to either make it more modern or more itself rather than a carbon copy of the original. I mean very few like the Psycho remake because it was a shot for shot remake. Honestly, though, I can hardly recall the original here. I know that I saw it, Ralph Macchio and all, but I cannot say that I went into this knowing what exactly was going to happen. So in that regard I can say I had an open mind about this film, which is always a good thing.
Instead of Macchio, we get Jaden Smith, the famous kid of famous parents Will and Jada Pinkett. An interesting choice, but I can see this kid becoming a star like his father. He has the same charisma and sense of humor that he brings to the role here that his father is famous for. Jackie Chan, a name I have always liked seeing in the credits of any movie serves as Mr. Miyagi here, though he is really Mr. Han. I remember Pat Morita being great as Mr. Miyagi, but I think Mr. Chan brings plenty to the role of Mr. Han to be thankful for.
The film follows the same basic premise. Dre Parker is just a kid from Detroit living in a strange new land, China. He is foreign and so are his classmates, who bully him and do not welcome him with welcome arms. That is, of course, except the cute little girl who plays the violin, Mei Ying. But her involvement with Dre is the cause of much friction, so much so that she is forced to stop seeing him by her father. The character relationships here are done quite well in fact. Mei and Dre, Dre and Mr. Han, Dre and his bully, Cheng. They are all explored with enough depth and feeling to set the stage for that classic finale at the Kung Fu tournament. I will say this, they stayed true to the ending, which is almost too great to change anyway.
The film is noticeably different from the original, but I mean that in a good way. The fact that they were able to shoot this in China, on location is one of the biggest advantages the film has. Much like The Last Emperor, which is a better film, the beauty of China and the Forbidden City add a whole new layer to the proceedings, and I would even say a whole new character. China is beautiful. Jaden and Jackie are great together too, which adds a lot to the enjoyment of watching them together. This is something that won’t soon outshine its inspiration, but is something that is sure to please and entertain most of the people that go to see it.