Director: Harald Zwart
This remake of the 1984 coming-of-age/martial arts tale relocates the tale to China, updates some of the theme and even manages to change the martial art (instead of karate, our young hero is learning Kung Fu, which sort of renders the title a bit misleading). Apart from that, it’s very much the same as the original in which a young boy learns about the power he has inside himself and the fact that he can use it to beat up lots of bullies with – usually quite disproportionate – violence.
12-year-old Dre Parker moves to China with his mother after she accepts a new job. Unfamiliar with the surroundings, language and culture he feels increasingly alienated, until he makes friends with the pretty Mei Ying. But his attentions also draw the wrath of Kung Fu prodigy Cheng who – with the help of his cronies – proceeds to make Dre’s life miserable. Enter Mr. Han, the maintenance man for Dre’s building who – handily – knows Kung Fu. Soon Dre enters a tournament to stop the beatings of the bullies and Mr. Han is the man to teach him the secrets of martial arts.
Very much a vehicle for the young Jaden Smith (the son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett), with some flashy action from Jackie Chan as Mr. Han, this is a simplistic but satisfying fable that leaves no cliche uncovered and no lesson about tolerance and respect unsaid. Whilst it’s all very predictable (indeed, as a remake, it’s very predictable indeed), Zwart has a good eye for some of the action sequences and provides some nice vistas of China (indeed, it sometimes seems as if money from the Chinese Tourist Board was pumped into the film), whilst the interplay between Chan and Smith provide some watchable moments.
At two hours plus the film is much too long (do we really need that many montages of seeing Smith train?), but it just manages to provide enough watchable entertainment to keep less demanding members of the audience happy.
Now showing in all three countries.