2010 Preview: The Karate Kid

by Brandon Gray
Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan in The Karate Kid remake.

January 26, 2010

Release Date: June 11
Studio: Sony
Genre: Action Drama
Director: Harald Zwart
Writer: Michael Soccio
Cast: Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith, Taraji P. Henson
Studio Description: 12-year-old Dre Parker (Smith) could've been the most popular kid in Detroit, but his mother's (Henson) latest career move has landed him in China. Dre immediately falls for his classmate Mei Ying - and the feeling is mutual - but cultural differences make such a friendship impossible. Even worse, Dre's feelings make an enemy of the class bully, Cheng. In the land of kung fu, Dre knows only a little karate, and Cheng puts "the karate kid" on the floor with ease. With no friends in a strange land, Dre has nowhere to turn but maintenance man Mr. Han (Chan), who is secretly a master of kung fu. As Han teaches Dre that kung fu is not about punches and parries, but maturity and calm, Dre realizes that facing down the bullies will be the fight of his life.
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Analysis: Produced by Will Smith and featuring his son, Jaden, in the title role and Jackie Chan as the martial arts mentor, The Karate Kid remake crane-kicks into action on June 11, the same weekend as fellow 1980s retread The A-Team. It appears to be less faithful to its source material than A-Team is. Key changes include a younger Kid than Ralph Macchio was in the 1984 smash, a new location that he moves to (China instead of Los Angeles; a big change because both the Kid and his mentor were cultural outsiders in the original, now it's just the Kid), a glossier veneer and a different martial art: kung fu instead of the titular karate (the picture has sometimes been called The Kung Fu Kid by its producers).

The original Karate Kid debuted in June 1984 to $5 million at 931 sites (or the equivalent of over $11 million adjusted for ticket price inflation) and ended its run at $90.8 million (or around $200 million adjusted). The Karate Kid Part II, in which the Kid goes to karate's native land Japan, made even more in 1986, but the franchise stalled with The Karate Kid Part III in 1989 and a 1994 revival called The Next Karate Kid, featuring the original's Pat Morita and Hilary Swank as his new student, failed, grossing $8.9 million in its entire run.

Though the franchise faded, martial arts remained a movie mainstay, though mostly in action movies as opposed to sports/coming-of-age dramas like Karate Kid. Recently, Never Back Down, a movie that was practically a remake of Karate Kid, delivered modest numbers, starting at $8.6 million and ending up with $24.9 million. That movie targeted teens and young adults, but the new Karate Kid is aiming for more of a family audience. Jackie Chan's reputation and popularity suggest that he's a good fit, and he recently mined similar material in the fantasy The Forbidden Kingdom, which opened to $21.4 million and closed with $52.1 million.

Ultimately, The Karate Kid remake is hoping that its universal underdog, fish-out-of-water and culture clash themes that help made the original such a success will translate into further box office glory.

Similar Movies: The Karate Kid (1984), The Karate Kid Part II, The Karate Kid Part III, The Next Karate Kid, Sidekicks, Never Back Down, The Forbidden Kingdom, Rush Hour, The Spy Next Door, The Tuxedo, 3 Ninjas, Kung Fu Panda

Related Charts: Action - Martial Arts, Action Remake, Series: The Karate Kid

Related Story:
'Forbidden,' 'Forgetting' Fly

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2010 Preview

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