If you've seen one, you've seen them all. New boy/girl in town/school gets picked by bullies. A wizened old immigrant Chinese man teaches Caucasian kid Kung Fu. After the initial skepticism and umpteen errors, kid-San learns well. Situation arrives where Kid-San faces the bullies and wins. End of story.
However, the latest in the format is a little different. For one, the protagonist, Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) is the immigrant. Secondly, Parker moves to the heartland of Kung Fu – China - with his mother. He gets picked on by bullies who incidentally, also know kung-fu, but of the kind that inflicts damage. Parker is scared and hates feeling that way.
Enter Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), the maintenance man at Parker's building. He rescues Parker and ends up enrolling him in a tournament where the bullies are also participating. Han trains Parker pretty much like Mr. Miyagi of the earlier movies, by breaking down the moves into simple every day chores ('hanging up the coat' bit brought back that warm fuzzy feeling that arose previously with 'paint the fence', 'wax on, wax off' and 'praying mantis').
Meanwhile, Parker has his first crush - a violinist who studies in the same school he does. When he ends up alienating her, he reaches out to Mr. Han who has his own internal battles. Parker realises this and gently draws him out of his shell. As is expected, Parker wins the tournament, and as in the earlier movies, gains the respect of his opponent.
Jaden Smith brilliantly conveys Parker's fears in the initial sections as well his quiet grit in the climax. The stillness that his teacher speaks of, is visible in Parker in the scene where he takes charge of Mr. Han. A restrained Jackie Chan is unfamiliar to audiences who are accustomed to a charming old Mr. Miyagi of the earlier movies and Jackie Chan of quick reflexes. But Chan interprets the character of teacher in his own way.
Pic courtesy movie's official website.