**/**** Image A Sound A Extras B-
starring Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson, Wenwen Han
screenplay by Christopher Murphey
directed by Harald Zwart
by Walter Chaw So here's the thing: there's something really powerful about the archetype of a child losing his father and finding a mentor and, on the flipside, of a father losing a son and finding an apprentice. Easy to scoff, it's also the worn-through, threadbare foundation for stuff like the Dardennes' arthouse favourite The Son, Beat Takeshi's Kikujuro, and Pixar's Up--so why not another go-round with a remake of The Karate Kid? The only places it truly fails are in its deviations from formula: a little too much faithless razzle-dazzle here, a bit too much equivocal bullshit there, and a whole lot of nepotism as overmatched Jaden Smith (spawn of producers Will and Jada Pinkett) grimaces his way through a cipher of a character. It's high-concept fat that clogs the arteries of a lean, John G. Avildsen-sculpted framework, this inner-city-to-Forbidden-city crap that sees li'l Dre (Smith) jetting off to Beijing when mommy (Taraji P. Henson) gets a job at an auto plant. Should there be an undercurrent of irony here about moving from Detroit to Beijing to work on cars? Doesn't matter, as in the place of subtext, The Karate Kid quickly introduces a deeply uncomfortable love story between 12-year-old Dre and little Mei (Han Wenwen) that culminates in a stolen kiss and a sexy dance set to Lady Gaga that has blank Dre slacking his jaw in the very approximation of Forrest Gump finally fucking Jen-nay. Is there a racial element when bully Cheng (Wang Zhenwei) warns Dre to "stay away from all of us"? Doesn't matter, as in the place of all that stuff about internment camps that so beautifully complicated the 1984 flick is the drama of Mr. Han née Miyagi (Jackie Chan) losing control of his car on a dark and stormy night (because just as every chink knows kung fu, none of them can drive--Han totals a car in the film while it's parked in his living room), thus opening the door for a ragamuffin to come calling like some funked-up changeling.