I never saw the original "Karate Kid" movie back in 1984, or any of its sequels. Back then, as I was about to exit my teenage years, I wanted my martial arts movies to be fast, tough, bone-crunching - something like Bruce Lee's "Enter The Dragon" or Jackie Chan's "The Big Brawl". Which is ironic, as 26 years later, it's Chan that co-stars in the "Karate Kid" remake.
In this version, Jaden Smith (son of Will) plays the eponymous teenager, forced to move out of hometown Detroit, as worsening economic conditions means his mother has to transfer over to China in order to keep her job. A fish out of water, Smith finds it difficult to adapt and is soon picked on by school bullies as an easy target. This comes to the attention of local oddjob man Chan, who takes it upon himself to teach Smith a thing or two about defending himself and, oh, enters him into the local martial arts tournament.
On the minus side, "Karate Kid" takes its time and then some - two hours twenty minutes! - to tell its story; to tighten it up, at least half an hour could have been lopped off the running time. But it has to be said that, overlong though it is, what we have here is a remarkably entertaining movie, with an engaging performance from Chan, an occasionally witty and surprising script and good use of the China locations. However, Jaden Smith is the standout - unprecocious, likeable and believable in the kung fu sequences. (Yes - kung fu, NOT karate. Despite the title, there's no karate on show here). It's a genuine film for all the family - the kids will love Jaden Smith learning to kick ass, whilst parents will appreciate the film's message that to succeed, you have to work for it.
This remake was a surprise hit at the US box-office earlier in the summer, raking in $60m in its first weekend and guaranteeing itself a sequel. If the next film can keep up the high standard (and do it with some brevity!), then it's going to be well worth looking forward to.