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Karate Kid, The


Stars: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P Henson, Wen-wen Han, Rongguang Yu, Zhenwei Wang, Jared Minns

Director: Harald Zwart

Little Jaden Smith is even smaller than Ralph Macchio from the original, in this remake of the crowd-pleasing hit from 1984, which itself spawned several sequels.

Eleven-year-old Jaden, son of Will, plays 12-year-old Dre (though he scarcely looks 10), whose skin colour and dreadlocks soon make him something of an outsider in China, where he moves with his mother (Henson) - and where he soon falls victim to the local bullies. These turn out to be students at a rather fearsome kung fu academy - motto 'No weakness! No pain! No mercy!' - and Dre has soon sustained two painful beatings at their hands.

He's saved from further punishment by the local handyman, Mr Han who, being played - and very well - by Jackie Chan - is quite an expert at martial arts himself. He agrees to teach Dre kung fu, provided he uses it in the right way, and the scene is set for the traditional tournament climax where Dre will, of course, meet the chief bully in the final.

So how does this simple tale take 141 minutes to tell? Well, there are side issues, such as Dre's friendship and embarrassing tentative romance with a young violinist (Han) and lots of lush Chinese scenery, with tourist plugs for the Great Wall. Plus a scene where Chan is lamenting the death of his wife and child, which is overlong and difficult to understand.

Smith, despite rigorous real-life training, never quite convinces us that he has the chops to gets so many wins at the end, though he's personable enough and an acting credit to his dad.

David Quinlan

USA/China 2010. UK Distributor: Sony (Columbia). Colour by Cinelabs Beijing.
141 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 24 Jul 2010