It’s hard to improve on this endearing story of underdog victory and cheesy catchphrases (“Wax on, wax off!”). New kid in town Daniel LaRusso asks Mr. Miyagi to teach him karate in order to defend himself against school bullies after a particularly gruesome beating. After months of performing banal chores around Mr. Miyagi’s apartment, Daniel eventually masters the art of karate and goes on to defeat his high school foe in a tournament. Parts II (1986) and III (1989) were forgettable at best, with the former taking the duo to Okinawa, and the latter centered around the protection of a bonsai plant. Producers sought to mix up the formula in 1994’s The Next Karate Kid with a female lead. Future Oscar winner Hilary Swank stars as Julie Pierce, an angsty, rebellious teen who prefers nursing a pigeon to fitting in with classmates. This year’s remake introduces Jaden Smith (the 11-year-old son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett, who served as producers on the film) as Dre Parker, a Detroit transplant who, this time around, battles bullies in Beijing with Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) as his mentor.
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