In what at first feels like a remake of "The NeverEnding Story" is actually a 140-minute reimagining of the 1984 hit "The Karate Kid" starring Ralph Macchio as the titular kid and Pat Morita as his wise trainer.
This time 12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) moves to Beijing with his sassy Detroit mom (Taraji P. Henson), who got a job transfer across the globe for skills unexplained. Dre catches the eye of a young Chinese schoolgirl just as fast as he becomes a target for a gang of bullies that, natch, have all been trained by a sadistic martial arts master who seems to get off on boy pain.
Dre encounters and is tormented by the bullies at every corner until maintenance man Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) takes our young hero under his wing. Like Yoda taught Luke the ways of the Force, Mr. Han teaches Dre the ways of true kung fu sprinkled with words of wisdom. This prepares Dre for a huge kung fu tournament during which he gets to face the alpha bully in the ring and earn the respect of his peers and cheering mother.
It's a long time coming to get to the final tournament in "The Karate Kid," prior to which we see Dre get his pride served to him several times on a pupu platter by angry kids. Still, there are moments of near mystical serenity to be found in the exotic scenery, such as when Dre observes a woman (Michelle Yeoh, in an uncredited cameo) put a cobra in a trance with her calmly fluid movements high in the Wudang Mountains.
From the moment Dre gets attacked by bullies early in the film you'll be rooting for him to regain his honor and kick some butt, which is exactly what you would expect from a movie starring the child of co-producers Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith.
Audiences cheered for young Smith to the tune of over $354 million worldwide in this remake that, in much of the rest of the world, is more correctly titled "The Kung Fu Kid." This inspirational family film demonstrates that one's ultimate quest for honor begins as early as elementary school... and lasts a lifetime.
Extras! Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain Chinese lessons, the Justin Bieber featuring Jayden Smith music video "Never Say Never," and "Just for Kicks: The Making of 'The Karate Kid.'" The Blu-ray adds an interactive map of China, an alternate ending and production diaries hosted by Chan.