I THINK I hate Jaden Smith.
This is a mean thing to say about a 12-year-old. Jealousy makes you say mean things. Why isn't my dad the biggest movie star in the world? Why didn't I inherit Will Smith's charisma and charm? Instead, I'm professionally known as "Fatboy," I'm built like the nightmare offspring of Samwise Gamgee and R2-D2, and I had to witness (not watch, witness) Jaden Smith in the new Karate Kid movie—one of the few remakes that could be better than the original. At age 12, he flat-out owns this movie. I barely own my car.
This Karate Kid is structurally the same as the 1984 original, but the details have been either amped up ("sweep the leg" becomes "break his leg") or completely changed. Dre (Smith) lives in Detroit with his autoworker mom. Detroit sucks. So they move to China, because that's where someone who makes cars in Detroit needs to go if they wanna keep making cars. Unfortunately, in China, tiny, sweetly confused American kids like Dre who try too hard to look cool? They get beat up. This makes China suck. What China has over Detroit (aside from a healthy automotive industry) is Jackie Chan. He knows kung fu, and is willing to teach it to Dre. Inspirational cinema ensues.
The Karate Kid is pure formula: uncut, chemical-grade, Rocky-brand dope. It's blatantly, unfairly manipulative, and I love it for that; even when plot points were telegraphed from continents away, I still smiled when they reached me, largely due to Smith and Chan's great performances. The true test of this movie's success: Hardened, jaded movie critics, miming sloppy kung fu moves at each other in a rainy parking lot following the screening, with giant grins on their faces like the 12-year-old boys they used to be. It almost made me forget to be ragingly jealous of Jaden Smith.