Ok, you probably think the name of the movie that I'm reviewing is "The Karate Kid," and technically you would be right. However in the movie, Will Smith's kid refers to his moves as "Kung Fu," and the contest that he enters is a Kung Fu contest. Further, the Mr. Miagi character claims that this type of fighting is not Karate.
So I'm going to call the film "The Kung Fu Kid" whether you like it or not. For those of you who want to cut to the chase, I didn't like this movie and give it a triple bogey rating. For those who want to learn more, here's the plot. Proceed with caution, as the rest of this post is filled with spoilers.
The film starts as Will Smith’s kid moves to China with his mom. Will is away making a different (and probably better) film, so it's just Jada Pinket Smith and Will's kid. Unfortunately, Jada Pinket Smith who got ugly.
They move into a building in Bejing where Mr. Miagi is the maintenance man who goes by the name of Mr. Han (not to be confused with this classic character from 1980's cinema) . Mr. Miagi is a mean old guy who only cares about his restoring his classic 1970's era American car (I liked him better when he was Clint Eastwood).
Will Smith's kid thinks he can score with a hot Chinese girl because he’s Will Smith’s kid. This really upsets one of the Chinese boys at his school. It turns out the upset boy is the best Kun Fu fighter of all the 35 million people who live in Bejing.
Arrogantly, Will Smith's kid picks a fight with the local boy on a playground and then gets into trouble confronting him again at school. Eventually, Will Smith's kid throws a bucket of what looks to be urine and feces on his rival and a bunch of other Chinese boys in what might be considered by some to be a racially motivated attack. The Chinese kids chase him and eventually catch him and beat him up.
Mr. Miagi breaks up the fight and then beats up the Chinese kids. Afterward, Miagi & Will Smith’s kid go to meet the local kids at their Kung Fu studio and the situation is settled by agreement to settle the score at an upcoming Kung Fu contest.
Miagi agrees to train Will Smith’s kid. Training consists exclusively of Will Smith's kid putting on, taking off, then hanging up his jacket over and over again. After a few weeks of this, we learn that all the Kung Fu moves you need to know in order to become a master are encompassed in the action of hanging up your jacket.
Will Smith’s kid hits us over the head with the realization that Mr. Miagi's character is a rip off of Yoda from the Star Wars series, then they recreate the scene from Rocky where he runs up the stairs. To further make the movie derivative of more creative ventures, Will Smith’s kid and the hot local girl then recreate the opening credits of Friends by dancing in a fountain.
In an attempt to be completely stereotypical the Chinese girl playes a dance video game. Playing with the young Mr. Smith makes her late for an important violin audition, which Smith disrupts by behaving inappropriately. The chick’s dad gets upset and makes her break up with Will Smith’s kid.
A depressed Will Smith's kid meets an even more depressed Mr. Miagi, who is drunk and smashes his car with a baseball bat; it turned out his wife and kid were killed in a car crash years ago and he just realized that he was at fault. Quickly, they get over it and continue training and eventually go to the Kung Fu tournament.
The tournament for local 12-year olds features a Jumbotron and fighting to the traditional Chinese music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. In the semifinals, one of the bad kids is disqualified for breaking Will Smith’s kid’s leg. The doctor says Will Smith's kid can’t continue. Because it’s an event for 12-year olds, the professional physician has no power to prevent a significantly injured child from fighting and Will Smith's kid fights his nemesis, the toughest kid in China, with a broken leg. Only Mr. Miagi has performed some witchcraft, so the boy's leg is no longer broken.
Shockingly, after a hard fought battle, Will Smith’s kid wins. I know I didn’t see that coming.
To me, there were a couple of really disappointing aspects of this movie. First of all, the original version featured a much more likely wimpy kid. Let's face it, Ralph Maccio is more convincing as a wimp likely to get his ass kicked than the son of America's most bankable action hero.
Secondly, there was no cameo from Maccio. With the passing of Pat Morita in 2005, we would have demanded a cameo from Maccio. Finally, Jackie Chan was not convincing as an actor; I watched Pat Morita, I was a fan of his and you sir are no Pat Morita.