It's very hard to remake or reinvent a franchise like The Karate Kid, what's nice about this new rendition is it doesn't try to start a new franchise just tell a good story to a new generation with a new slant.
Does it manage this Herculean feat? Should a remake of such an 80's classic even have been attempted?
Well, first let's examine the differences: in this version our hero, Dre (Jaden Smith) isn't just a new kid in a new school, but a fish totally out of water as Dre is moved from Detroit to China. Also, whereas in the original film the “kid” was a high schooler, here the kid is a kid, and barely looks like the 12-year old, Jr. High Schooler he's supposed to portray. While another major kink in the idea here is the title, as in this version the kid is being taught Kung Fu by the kindly Chinese handyman, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), with the dark memory in his past, not Karate by the Japanese gardener with the dark memory in his past.
One of the big similarities though is that the heart and soul of the film is about a kid's coming of age through training, and discipline, and the emotional bonding between two unlikely individuals amidst this evolution.
Now before you start thinking that Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan are not up to the challenge of reprising roles originated by a seasoned Ralph Macchio and an Academy Award Nominated Pat Morita, be warned that Chan can act when he sets his mind to it, and Smith, as second generation Hollywood, is a splendid example of the apple not falling far from the tree, with acting blood on both sides his pedigree is only surpassed by his charm and natural ability to give a lot in his performance.
Of course you also have the commonality of the very adept at Kung Fu bullies, the girl (very different from our hero) young Dre makes a connection with, and the difference of the surprising but welcome assertion and concern of the mother of the kid (Taraji P. Henson), almost non-existent in the first film.
With the enrichment of the backdrop of the Chinese landscape and culture, paced by the winning performance of young Smith, and helped by the traditional Jackie Chan fun, hyper-action fight scene, this “Kung Fu Kid” is a better than good effort to live up to an original that is already a pop-culture icon.
This retelling had big shoes to fill and a steep hill to climb, but in its own way accomplished both by concentrating on what made the original work: the charm of these two characters coming together for their mutual benefit and enlightenment.