Twelve-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) and his mother Sherry (Taraji P Henson) move from Detroit to Beijing. There they live in a new apartment building called Beverly Hills, and Dre attends the local school. While visiting a nearby park, Dre strikes up a friendship with Meiying (Han Wenwen), a young girl who plays the violin. But Dre’s encounter with Meiying attracts the attention of the school bully Cheng (Zhenwei Wang) and his gang. They target Dre for attack.
Cheng wants to hurt Dre, but Mr Han (Jackie Chan) steps in. He is the maintenance man for Dre’s apartment building and a Kung Fu master. He makes short work of the bullies.
Mr Han encourages Dre to go to the Kung Fu academy where Cheng is a student. Mr Han hopes they can reason with Cheng through his instructor Master Li (Rongguang Yu). Unfortunately, Master Li is a bully too. So Mr Han decides that the only way to help Dre is to enter him in a Kung Fu tournament where he will fight Cheng one on one.
From here, the movie focuses on Mr Han teaching Kung Fu to Dre. Dre’s relationship with Meiying also blossoms as the day for the Kung Fu tournament draws near.
Bullying; martial arts; tweenage romance; grief and guilt over the death of family members
The Karate Kid (2010) contains intense segments of graphic martial arts violence enacted by young boys against other boys. It also shows frequent bullying. Much of the violence could be imitated by children who might see Dre and other characters as role models. Other than some bruising, the movie shows no real-life consequences that would result from injuries caused by the acts of violence. No blood or real injury is seen.
Examples of violence include the following:
- While in a park, Cheng pushes and shoves Dre, causing him to fall face first on the ground. Dre then charges at Cheng, and Cheng flips Dre over his shoulders. This leaves Dre lying upset on the ground. Dre gets up and punches Cheng in the face, knocking Cheng onto his back. Cheng retaliates by punching and kicking Dre hard in the chest and knocking Dre off his feet. Cheng then punches Dre hard in the eye, leaving Dre lying on the ground holding his eye in pain. Later Dre has a large ugly bruise covering much of one side of his face. He applies make-up to hide the bruise from his mother.
- In an act of deliberate bullying, Cheng knocks a food tray out of Dre’s hands. This covers Dre in food. Later we see Cheng and his gang rip Dre’s school bag out of his hands and tip the contents over the floor.
- Mr Han flicks a toothpaste top at Dre, hitting him in the face.
- During a training session, Master Li tells his young students to show ‘no weakness, no pain and no mercy’.
- In response to being bullied by Cheng and his gang, Dre throws a bucket of filthy water over them. Dre is eventually restrained by the bullies while Cheng powerfully punches Dre twice in the stomach. Dre lies on the ground in pain and very upset.
- There is a stylised fight between Cheng’s gang and Mr Han. Mr Han makes the boys punch and kick each other rather than making contact with him. By the end of the fight, all the bullies are left lying injured on the ground.
- Cheng fights another boy at Master Li’s academy, punching and kicking until his opponent is left lying on the ground. Master Li tells Cheng to finish off his opponent. So Cheng powerfully punches his opponent in the head, knocking him unconscious. Master Li then slaps Cheng hard across the face, saying ‘No mercy in life – your enemy deserves pain’.
- During training, Mr Han and Dre exchange numerous punches, blocks and kicks, none of which seem to cause Dre harm. One of the training exercises involves Mr Han punching Dre through a curtain with a boxing glove attached to a pole.
- During the Kung Fu tournament, there is stylised martial arts fighting between preteen boys. They punch and kick each other’s heads, faces and bodies, sometimes knocking each other out of the ring. At one point, the referee has to restrain Cheng to stop him from beating his opponent senseless.
- On Master Li’s instruction, a boy repeatedly punches Dre in the knee in a deliberate attempt to cripple him. When we next see Dre, he is lying on a bed with a badly bruised leg wrapped in ice. A doctor tells Dre that his injury is too severe for him to continue in the tournament.
- During the final fight, Dre punches Cheng in the face, wraps his legs around Cheng’s neck in a scissor hold, and flips Cheng over his shoulders. Master Li tells Cheng to break Dre’s leg, so Cheng punches Dre in his injured leg. Dre lies on the ground in severe pain with tears in his eyes. Standing on his one good leg, Dre does a back flip and kicks Cheng in the face, knocking Cheng to the ground.
Content that may disturb children
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie contains some scenes that could scare or disturb children under eight. For example:
- Mr Han is trying to heal injuries to Dre’s chest. He places heated glass cups on Dre’s chest, sets some liquid on fire and rubs the fire over Dre’s chest. The flames do not burn Dre, but appear to relieve his pain.
- A woman practising Kung Fu stands on a stone wall facing a very large cobra that imitates her movements.
- Mr Han gets drunk and smashes a car with a sledge hammer. He tells Dre that he was responsible for the death of his wife and 10-year-old son in a car accident – he was driving. He breaks down crying. We hear that each year he fixes the car and smashes it on the anniversary of the death of his wife and son.
Children in this age group might also be disturbed by the violent and disturbing scenes described above.
Some children in this age group could also be disturbed by some of the scenes described above.
None of concern
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
This movie contains some use of substances. For example, in one scene, Mr Han seems to be drunk and there is a half-empty bottle of alcohol sitting on a table.
Nudity and sexual activity
This movie contains some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- Dre and Meiying go on a date to a Chinese festival that celebrates love. They watch a shadow puppet play and lean in and kiss each other on the lips.
- Dre’s mother wears a dress that shows cleavage.
- In one scene, 12-year-old Meiying wears a short dress that exposes her thighs. She dances in a sensual manner, with hip movements and seductive facial expressions. The music accompanying Meiying’s dance contains sexual lyrics about pole dancing and also gambling metaphors with sexual innuendo. When Meiying finishes her dance, Dre says, ‘You’re hot’.
This movie shows the cartoon Sponge Bob Square Pants (in Chinese) a couple of times.
The Karate Kid contains a couple of low-level swear words and mild put-downs.
Ideas to discuss with your children
The Karate Kid (2010) is a martial arts action drama that is a remake of the 1984 movie of the same name. It targets a preteen and early-teen male audience. But the movie’s level of violence is far more intense than in the original movie. This actually makes it more suited to an older audience.
The movie includes several overt positive messages. But these sometimes conflict with what the movie actually shows. The positive messages include the following:
- The best fights are the ones you avoid.
- There are no bad students, just bad teachers.
- Kung Fu is not about fighting – it is about making peace with your enemy.
- The only person you need to control is yourself.
- Life will knock us down, but we can choose to get back up.
- A true friend is one who makes our life better.
- Confronting bullies will allow you to lose your fear of them.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include the following:
- Confronting fears: Dre lives in fear of bullies. But by confronting those bullies in a Kung Fu tournament, he both loses his fear of them and gains their respect.
- Keeping promises: Dre and Meiying make a promise to each other. They go to some lengths to keep it.
- Empathy: Dre displays high levels of empathy to both Meiying and Mr Han.
This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues such as:
- the consequences of engaging in violent acts like those shown in the movie. In the movie, we see children and preteens severely beating each other to the point of unconsciousness. But other than some very occasional bruising, the movie does not show any blood or realistic injury. Grown-ups might like to talk about how this kind of violence in real life would result in severe injury, if not death
- the harmful effects of bullying, non-violent methods of dealing bullies, and how children can access support to assist with bullying.