Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith, and Taraji P. Henson put their acting chops into an awkward and verbose remake of the the 1984 film The Karate Kid. This time, however, because Will Smith produced the film, he wants his son Jaden Smith in it. Though no one will disagree that Smith was good in The Pursuit of Happiness, as a front man, his delivery of the clunky dialogue is awkward, drawn out, and he mostly comes off as an obnoxious tool. I'm not going to say Jaden can't act, because I've seen him do just fine, but I'm going to say that if he wishes to showcase to someone his ability, to avoid showing this movie. Whether it's the fault of the wordy, uncomfortable script or he just wasn't on top of things this time around is not my place to say. Taraji P. Henson doesn't get much bragging rights either. It seems that Jackie Chan was the only one able to transcend the material and show off something great.
Christopher Murhpey's screenplay and Harold Zwart's directing have coupled together to create an overly long film with nothing new to say. There's nothing wrong with a longer movie. The Dark Knight was twelve minutes longer than The Karate Kid (2010), but it never left people sitting around looking at each other wondering, "are we still watching the Snake martial artist? Is this montage still going? Are we an hour and ten minutes into a film without learning more than 'take jacket off and hang jacket up?'" To complain about the footage of China is to complain that the film changed location and upped the ante on the martial arts, which is silly because that's the main reason this film was remade. Still, between the lengthy shots of training, spending forty five minutes simply setting up and then re-setting up and then re-re-setting up the conflict, it's hard not to complain about all the shots of the beautiful places in China. Especially when the scenes are so clairvoyantly formulaic one can often call out the lines and occurrences ahead of time. And when you can't, it's because the dialogue is awkwardly covering something serious or awkwardly trying to tell a joke--and despite a few chuckles and a some cringes at Smith's whiny voice, it fails at both.
Aside from straining for emotion and laughter, the film takes the martial arts to a point that strains upon realism. Between twelve year olds fighting like 28-year-old masters with a string system attached, the violent kicks and punches to the face and legs, and a kid crapping himself with damaged ribs, most people will be watching this film with horror. Why on Earth did we make The Karate Kid younger but more violent? That doesn't make sense! But with the need to make the martial arts more impressive to pull in the audience of the original, and Will Smith throwing tons of money at this movie wanting his son as the lead, this is the result. I'm not saying Jaden Smith was a bad choice for any other reason than his age, but his age is definitely an issue.
As we reach the end, we agree with Smith's character "Dre" when he says, "I get it," yelling at "Mr. Han," Chan's character. So then suddenly Dre knows how to fight, immediately. Then begins still his long period of training and visiting places in China. By the time we reach the tournament, to see what we want to see, we're again placed in utter horror by the villain martial artist. To make matters worse, they violently smash this kid's leg and then let him fight upon his insistence. Then they break his leg and no one helps him up, just watches as a poor twelve year old cries and crawls his way to the center of the ring, where he awkwardly stands up. If you haven't lost believability by now--never mind that the entire team should have been disqualified after the bashing of the leg and then the subsequent breaking of it, and they really should do a fair postponed match--you will lose all senses of reality with the final move that wins the game.
And since the film ran too long as it was, it doesn't give a proper resolution. The kid barely limps off the platform before we end on a freeze frame. Cue cringing. This film is hardly worth any minute of its remaking, which is a sad disappointment as it had potential, and perhaps if someone had the gall to say what many high school teachers tell us: "trim this down," the film could have been at least enjoyable for what it was. But it had a pretense of grandeur without anything to give such a right. This film definitely receives a Trash It, in my book, even as a family film, because it's simply too long (boring) and too violent (considering the age) and not funny, original, or moving enough to justify either.