Thought the 1984 The Karate Kid kicked ass? The remake’s got kung fu fighting, a breathtaking Beijing backdrop and Will Smith’s 11-year-old whiz kid, Jaden. Taraji P. Henson (his movie mom), explains why the original should bow down
1. The Heartfelt Survival Story
I play a single mother from Detroit who loses her job, and she’s the only one in the [auto factory] who gets offered a job in Beijing. She gotta pay her bills. So she takes her son [Dre] and moves to this foreign land. The original Karate Kid was more fantasy. This really plays up what it’s like to be bullied. It really shows what happens to a child’s psyche when they’re afraid to go to school, [like] they lose their appetite. It deals with that on a deeper, more realistic level.
2. The Kid Does Extreme Stunts
Jaden trained with Jackie Chan [who plays Mr. Han] and kung fu trainers every day. He did a lot of the [physical work] on his own, [like] running up and down the steps of the Great Wall. There are a lot of very intense fight scenes. And there’s a scene where he did a split on a pole on top of a [tall] building. He did it all. He wanted it to look real.
3. The “Yes You Can” Message
I’m glad we have a Black karate kid because our kids need to see that. Just imagine this character and what he can accomplish now in life. He’s gone to China and had this experienceŃhe’s unstoppable. The message is get out of your zip code. There’s a big world out there for you. If you stay true to yourself, you can go to China and become a kung fu master if you want to. —As told to Starrene Rhett
This article appears in the June/July issue of VIBE, currently on stands.