Rambling Review Preamble Rant: Know why I don’t like kids' films? Well, there are lots and lots of reasons, but one of the big ones is the PARENTAL DEATH EMOTIONAL MANIPULATION PLOT DEVICE. It’s so crass. You’ve got Schmaltz Disney sitting down with the writers saying, “Hmmmm…how do we get these little buggers to settle down and pay attention without blowing crap up every few minutes? How do we get them invested? [think think think] Ah HA! All kids’ biggest fear is losing a parent! POP IT IN THERE, FELLAS!” Parents go dead or missing or fatally divorced in these kiddie films at an alarming rate. So, when I saw that within the first few SECONDS of this year’s remake of “The Karate Kid” we are informed that DADDY DIED, I rolled my eyes so hard that they fell out of their sockets, bounced down the aisle stairs next to the courtesy path lighting, and some brat picked them up and ate them, thinking they were some new and exotic overpriced movie candy.

Sigh. It didn’t set me up well, let’s say. I don’t give any passes to movies primarily designed for children. I expect them to be as good as those made for us adults. And yes, I do realize that a 200 million dollar box office gross could be had by just combining monster trucks, Angelina Jolie, bad guys getting their asses kicked, stuff blowing up, computer-generated hamsters voiced by popular teen stars, and a frat party. I’m on it.

Anyway, I retrieved my eyeballs, and continued watching the film. I have never seen any of the other “Karate Kid” movies. No, really. All I knew was skinny little Ralph Macchio learns martial arts and life lessons from Pat Morita, who used to be on TV and stuff. I figured I watched David Carradine in “Kung Fu” when I was a kid enough – I get the basic premise here, and you do too, so you don’t really need a plot summary from me. The story itself is proven solid – the underdogs who overcome obstacles and their own personal issues to go on to kick some righteous ass. So I will just stick to a simple “yin yang” review here – what I liked and what I didn’t, and how it combined to make the whole.

Yin and Yang: Jaden Smith as Dre Parker. The highly-adorable child actor of adorable Hollywood adult actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith is charismatic, for sure. The camera loves him and he will continue on to enjoy a long acting career, provided he doesn’t attend the Lohan Finishing School. Smith is on-screen almost every minute of the film, and handles the substantial athletic tasks very well. My only criticism of the young man is that he’s a little too like his real-life dad throughout – terribly likable, but you feel the craft acting in his performance, “saying” the lines right, “making” the right movements, rather than truly feeling his character. There were a few times I think Master Smith was able to push past that, and there we see someone who could grow to become a good actor, rather than just a very competent one.

Yin: Taraji P. Henson as his mom, Sherry Parker. Oh my god. I kept wanting to report her to Social Services for Dumb Useless Mom of the Year. I swear, this character was pretty much the equivalent of a chicken with its head cut off. Henson played it for laughs at times with the “talk to the hand” stereotype, but it was just lame. An opportunity was utterly wasted to flesh out her role, as a widowed mom from Detroit with a young unhappy son in a completely foreign land with no support, who would likely face a whole different kind of racism and isolation. Instead she bounced around and made goofy faces. Should’ve made the kid an orphan.

Yang: Jackie Chan as Mr. Han, Handyman (get it, huh?) and kung fu genius/mentor. In my mind, Jackie Chan can do no wrong. How can anyone not totally love him? You expect to see fantastic stuntwork and martial arts from him, of course, but here too he gave a fine and restrained performance that made him the acting standout of the film. Chan’s Han “played the pauses” (a line from the film). You bought him all the way.

Yang: China. Some of China’s most stunning scenery was featured as Dre and Mr. Han traveled to train and learn in preparation for the aforementioned ass-kicking competition. It’s easy for us here in the ol' Yew Ess Aye to forget that China is not just densely-packed polluted cities and Happy Meal toy factories. There were some breathtaking shots.

Yin: Ass-kicking. Although exciting, at times hard to watch. After all, these were little kids beating on other little kids, and the fighting was sometimes really, really, really brutal. If copied in real life, we aren’t talking getting the wind knocked out of you and a close-up of an anguished face – we’re talking major injury or death. My seven-year-old daughter even had to close her eyes at times because it made her so uncomfortable, and she’s been sent home from school for fork-kicking a couple of times. I should call Jackie Chan.

Yang: Zhenwei Wang as Dre’s nemesis Cheng. All I can say here is INSPIRED casting. This kid was a truly scary and sociopathic bully, and never broke character. Hell, I would be afraid of him! Like even now! Good job!

Yin: The movie was waaaaayyyy too long. If the story had spent more time on character development, it would have been something else, but it took a terribly long time to get going. The pace was slow throughout, which wasn’t as much thoughtful as meandering. 140 minutes is a LONG TIME to ask kids to sit, and longer still for grown-ups to sit with kids. Could’ve lost 40 minutes off it and had a much tighter, tauter, livelier film.

: Dead dad, loopy mom, cool mentor, hip kid, freaky bullies, China stuff, and ass-kickin’, long enough to fit in a large popcorn, supersized soda, Gummi Eyeballs, and a restroom run.