The Karate Kid (2010)


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Like a shaolin center punch and roundhouse crescent kick to the midsection, The Karate Kid hits the early summer release schedule with a rousing blow that’s sure to fill theater seats with butts and Kung Fu studios with inspired young students hoping to quell their bully problems. Though it carries the same name as the 1984 hit movie that both vaulted and (oddly) killed the career of Ralph Macchio, this iteration more closely resembles Rocky than it does its iconic namesake.

Jaden Smith, son of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith (who also produced the movie), takes over the role of the titular character, but his martial art of choice is Kung Fu rather than karate, as the reworked script looks to up the ante of the fish-out-of-water story by moving the setting to China. Popular Detroit kid Dre Parker (Smith) finds himself the frightened newcomer in a strange land when his mother (Taraji P. Henson) is transferred to Beijing where the pair face a struggle to fit in.

Finding himself on the losing end of a bully conflict, Dre soon realizes his only chance at survival in his new home must come from the tutelage of a meek maintenance man, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), who brokers a truce with Dre’s enemies until they must all face off in a forthcoming martial arts tournament.

Unlike the original, this The Karate Kid is sometimes shockingly brutal despite its PG rating. But every bone-crunching blow delivered by the bullies in the film’s early going, serves to effectively heighten the excitement of the predictable payoff. And even though the climactic tournament’s outcome is all but telegraphed in the film’s overzealous trailers, we still get that same buzzy sports chill that shivers our skin every time we watch Rocky Balboa battle Apollo Creed in either of the first two Rocky films.

The film gets a significant lift as Chan hits the screen. We’ve come to expect his exciting brand of martial arts wizardry and agile choreography (which doesn’t completely disappoint here), but the pleasant surprise comes from his touchingly subdued and calculated Mr Han, a wounded loner moved to aid a fatherless boy.  Chan never attempts to characterize Morita’s Miyagi, and in fact one-ups with a new sequence of training techniques that don’t revive “wax on, wax off,” but do cleverly reference it. Think, “jacket on, jacket off.”

On the other hand, Jaden Smith is not quite ready to carry the load as a lead. Give him a few years. He’s a great action actor and handles his martial arts sequences masterfully here, graceful and natural.  But it’s a good thing Chan is never too far away to do the heavy emotional lifting. Smith does display the occasional moment of expressive brilliance, speaking volumes with facial ticks, but his lines often come off as stilted and forced, especially during the tender moments he shares with newcomer Wenwen Han, who plays Meiying, a young Chinese girl who befriends Dre shortly after he arrives in China.

In spite of the film’s junky pace and extremely formulaic storytelling, Director Harald Zwart easily betters both of his best-known previous efforts, Agent Cody Banks and The Pink Panther 2 with this renovated classic. All but one of the film’s numerous subplots, that swell the proceedings to more than two hours, are actually necessary to round out the characters. But a more fluid cohesion would have gone a long way. A few creative fincher-esque scene transitions almost outweigh the numerous fits and starts that plague The Karate Kid's flow.

One area where Zwart really excels however, is in the showcasing of ancient China as a prominent character in the film. Many stumbling blocks of filming in China were overcome to display the ancient land in all its stunning glory. The Tienanmen gates that lead to the Forbidden City were literally opened to the crew (the first time since Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor nearly a quarter century ago), allowing a few key scenes to unfold in a place not often seen on film. The result is a raucous little crowd-pleaser that’ll entertain 6 to 60 and might even encourage a few of the more doughy audience members to get off that couch and lace up the ol’ workout sneakers.

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
3 Stars

5 Stars

Blu-ray Experience
4 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - October 5, 2010
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
: English, English SDH, French
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); Digital copy (on disc); Digital copy PSP (on disc); DVD copy; BD-Live; movieIQ


Commentary Track:

  • None


  • The Karate Kid' Interactive Map of China (1080p)
  • Training Jaden (3:12)
  • Jaden Smith, A Day in the Life (3:50)
  • The Forbidden City (3:59)
  • From Jackie With Love (3:56)
  • The Great Wall (3:10)
  • Olympic Village (3:06)
  • Director Profile (2:19)
  • Taraji P. Henson Goes to China (2:40)
  • Wudang Mountains (3:19)
  • Chinese Lessons (1080p)
  • Just for Kicks: The Making of 'The Karate Kid' (1080p, 20:09)

Alternate Ending/Deleted Scenes:

  • Alternate ending (1080p, 3:32)

Music Video:

Never Say Never by Justin Bieber and featuring Jaden Smith (1080p, 3:49)


  • For Grown Ups, Stomp the Yard: Homecoming, Open Season 3, Hancock, and the original The Karate Kid