The Karate Kid Just Works

1984’s “The Karate Kid” is the film that not only launched Ralph Macchio’s career, it is a huge reminder of how much fun ’80s films were. Good-looking and entertaining stars, funny montages, a great soundtrack and an honest and powerful message made it a classic and one that can still be enjoyed today.

With that being said, a remake or reboot of this film was never needed. Thanks to lazy minds in Hollywood though, it came to fruition, with thousands online pissed and opting not to head to the theaters to see it. However and ironically, here, “The Karate Kid” is a film that many reboots should look to before filming, due to its willingness to be inspired by the source material, yet produce something that ultimately connects with today’s audience.

Powered by a super adorable and charismatic Jaden Smith and an endearing Jackie Chan, “The Karate Kid” isn’t as solid as it’s bigger brother, but it’s still effective on the big screen and is proof that some reboots can just work.

While the scenery is completely different in this film, as it takes places in China, all the concepts are the same. An outsider looking for acceptance, who finds himself in trouble and need of a friend, to only find a great one and a cutie on top of it to call his own, are all still here. As a matter of fact, there are so many influences from the first film here that the characters play with, such as the fly-catching scene and the whole- wax on-wax-off stuff, which has been replaced with something just as charming, that you’ll eventually find yourself a fan, even if you went into the theater a bit skeptical.

While the sum of the film’s parts are solid overall, the deal-breaker here is Smith, who plays the part of Dre with such a fun-loving and child-like, yet purposeful passion that it is impossible not to like him. Reminding the viewer of his father’s early days on television, Smith is a star in the making that shows just how much talent he has.

As well, even though it’s hard to see anyone but Pat Morita in this role, Jackie Chan does an admirable job here as Mr. Han, Dre’s mentor. From his walk, to his words of wisdom and staunch work-ethic, Chan embodies the role Morita performed over 25 years ago and puts his own stamp on it, much like Smith does, making the movie maintain the same feelings the original has.

However, by the end, you get the feeling that Han and Dre’s relationship is much more than student and teacher- it’s composed of pure trust and love, as they’ve both depended on each other throughout and have become like a father and son, or best friends.

Because of that, this reboot has something many films of this nature never do.


There are some bumps along the way though, such as a lack of subtitles during the Chinese-speaking scenes, which make it hard to emotional attach yourself to the villains here. Speaking of bad guys and Chinese, the prepubescent Chang, played by Zhenwei Wang is also solid here, but is hurt by a lack of English. That’s luckily made up for by his excellent abilities in the martial arts and great presence on-screen.

The same thing goes for Dre’s love interest, Meiying [Wenwen Han]. While their relationship pales in comparison to that of Macchio and Elizabeth Shue in the original, most likely due to their younger age, she helps provide the story with some Eastern flavor, capturing the outsider in a strange land motif that is needed to help get the message across.

More than just a reboot, this film is more about finding yourself and developing life-long friendships and bonds than the fights that happen along the way. If you can separate yourself from every other crappy prequel, sequel and re-imagining out there and just want to enjoy a good movie, one that is seriously influenced by other films in the genre, you can do a lot worse than “The Karate Kid.”

There may not be any crane kicks here, but the snake moves work just fine in the end.

About Patrick Hickey Jr. 13221 Articles
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of and is the author of the book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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