fan of the original Ralph Macchio/Pat Morita version, I wasn’t sure
whether this remake would measure up, but I was pleasantly surprised!
First, the star, Jaden Smith (son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett
Smith), is adorable in every way and is sure to have a solid career in
the industry. He won my heart in The Pursuit of Happiness,
playing alongside his dad. For one so young, he was funny, sassy,
animated, romantic, and showed tremendous strength and flexibility in
the Kung Fu segments. Obviously, he endured quite a bit of rigorous
training before filming began.
The movie started out very
similar to the original, with Dre (played by Smith) and his mom
relocating to Beijing, China, due to a job promotion. With no friends,
no understanding of the language, and being an anomaly because of his
race and hairstyle, Dre quickly becomes the target of a gang of Kung Fu
bullies who live by the “show no mercy” mantra. When a lovely Chinese
girl pays Dre some attention, the bullies move in for the kill and use
him to display their superb martial arts skills. The fight scenes are
quite dramatic, and as a mother of three, I found them painful to
watch, especially when afflicted on someone as adorable as Jaden Smith.
The main bully, Cheng (played by Zhenwei Wang), was especially
ferocious looking and was a formidable antagonist who kept the story’s
conflict at an edge-of-the-seat level.
But the best part of the movie
was the relationship between Dre and Mr. Han (played very convincingly
by Jackie Chan). Han is the apartment building maintenance man who
swoops in at the eleventh hour and protects Dre from another serious
after-school Kung Fu beating. The rescue is dramatic, yet comedic, and
had the whole audience laughing. Think martial arts, ballet, and the
Three Stooges and you get the idea. When Han and Dre confront the
bullies at their Kung Fu school, Han agrees to enter Dre into an
upcoming open fighting competition to finalize the conflict with Cheng.
This sets the story on a different track, where Han uses his unorthodox
training methods to get Dre ready for the match, including taking his
jacket on and off and hanging it on a peg (as opposed to the
Macchio/Morita “wax on, wax off” and “paint the fence,” etc.).
There were some other funny
moments between the brash American kid and the stoic, reclusive Chinese
maintenance man, but I especially liked the tender moments between the
two. The most memorable and touching was when Dre comforts Han over the
lingering guilt and sadness from the loss of his wife and son to a
tragic car accident.
are also some
breath-taking cinematic scenes at the Forbidden City and the Great
Wall, where Han teaches Dre about the discipline and spiritual strength
behind Kung Fu. This is when many conservative Christians get a little
squirmy, especially when teachings about the “power within” and the
equal struggle between good and evil and light and dark are espoused.
There was even a bothersome scene where Dre was told an ancient legend
about a bowl of supposed “magic water” at the top of the mountain that
would provide strength and protection from enemies. While it was cute
and funny to see Dre shove his whole face into the water, it is a sober
reminder that these forms of spiritualism are a direct counterfeit of
what Jesus Christ offers the world. Living water of the Holy Spirit is
where the real power is, and there is no other.
The worst scene (that almost
made me not recommend the film) involved a woman performing slow and
deliberate martial arts moves before a giant cobra—while standing on a
very narrow mountain ledge! I hid my eyes, since I detest snakes, but
as the movie progressed, I began to realize that this scene portrayed a
very important Christian truth. Originally, Dre thought the snake was
controlling the woman’s moves, but he learns from Han that it was the
woman’s calm, silent confidence that controlled the snake. This
foreshadows the ending of the movie and is a good example of how the
Chrisitian who understands his or her authority in Jesus Christ has all
power over the Enemy, Satan. In Luke 10:19 Jesus says, “Behold, I give
unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the
power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”
I was reminded of this truth as
the movie progressed to the climactic moment where Dre fights his
enemy, Cheng, and prevails, despite the odds against him. If you are
able to see the movie from this light, then perhaps the non-Christian
spiritual elements and the snake charming will be more tolerable.
While there are spiritual
elements in the movie that do not line up with the Bible, I recommend
it as an enjoyable family film for most ages. There is plenty of
opportunity for the discerning Christian parent to explain biblical
truth and correct false teachings, while at the same time be
entertained by a sweet and tender story filled with action and
excitement. If you haven’t gotten to the theater, then make sure you
see The Karate Kid at the dollar theater or on DVD and enjoy!