I promised my brother that I'll treat him to a sumptuous lunch and movie on my first payday. So I did. On a rainy Sunday afternoon, we went to Greenbelt to dine in his favorite restaurant, Mr. Jones, and I gave him the liberty to choose any movie. He picked Karate Kid.
It was an interesting choice. I didn't know what to expect in this year's Karate Kid. I've seen the three 1980's series version. It's definitely a part of my childhood, but I must admit I'm not a big fan. So when JD picked Karate Kid, I knew it would be either a win or lose situation.
First, I didn't know if this Karate Kid version would be an exact remake of the old one. In the old version, America was the primary setting, while in this season now, it's China. Also, the main character before is a teenager italian-american. Now it's slightly younger and black. While the mentor before was a bonsai-loving Japanese, now it's a Chinese Kung Fu expert slash building Maintenance personnel, Mr. Han played by Jackie Chan. Probably the aspects of kung-fu tournament finale and rivalry over a local girl will still be there, which is fairly predictable. But the thing that caught me off guard was Jaden Smith's performance, the same kid that broke your hearts in Will Smith's movie, In Pursuit of Happiness.
Whenever I see Jaden Smith, I see a new era of Will Smith. Jaden has a cute mix of charm and confidence. You could see that beneath his actor persona, he is beaming with energy and talent. Right after his character gets beaten up by his rivals, who are trained to be local kung-fu masters, Mr. Han rescues him and takes him in under his wing. It turns out that Mr. Han is this authentic Kung Fu master and you'll probably know what to expect after that.
What I loved about the movie is the genuine and heartbreaking performance of Jaden Smith and the calculated and strong performance of Jackie Chan. More than just the technical fighting sequences, is the story about an adolescent adjusting to his new life and how Kung Fu strengthens him and heals the broken Mr. Han.
There are basic attempts of comedy in the movie. It's nothing grand, but it's needed. Taraji P. Henson, who plays' Jaden's mother on screen, was a strong supporting actor while the Chinese counterparts are very endearing and interesting. I admit I was scared by the Chinese Kung Fu kids who despite of being actors, I believe, could really kick ass in actual life. They remind me one time in grade school we had a physical fitness soiree with pure Chinese students. We were grouped to play softball in their well-equipped, hardcore gymnasium. I don't want to go into details, but that softball turned out traumatic for me when softball was the "in" thing then. I got bruises and poker faces. Those Chinese students were tough. I think that's just how they are trained. I can't imagine for other major sports..what more for Kung Fu?
Karate Kid is not only a good and educational escape, but it is a good advertisement for China and it brings back childhood memories...even scary ones in my part.