Who's In It: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson, Wenwen Han, Zhenwai Wang
The Basics: Smith The Younger moves to China with his mother, whose job has transferred her there. Almost instantly he's the object of fascinated young girls who want to touch his hair--same thing happens to mom, too; Chinese people can't stop touching the hair of visiting African-Americans--and of furious bullies who simply want him to feel the pain. Then he meets Jackie Chan. That sort of levels the playing field a bit.
What's The Deal: Did you like Kung Fu Panda? Then welcome to Kung Fu Producer's Son, the gift of one extremely rich father to his golden offspring. Because while this movie is competently made, it features the glaring, sore thumb, nobody-had-the-nerve-to-say-no performance of a boy who isn't ready to carry a movie. Physically he's got it down. He's obviously had a lot of martial arts training to prepare for the part. But to act? To carry any emotional weight, save for what appears to be an ability to cry on cue and channel some of Dad's patented gestures and facial expressions? The kid is just not there yet. I'm trying to be kind here. He's 12, after all.
For Example: Smith has to move halfway across the world and say goodbye to his best friends. He stares at them instead. His mother talks to him. He stares. Jackie Chan teaches him kung fu. He stares. The little girl who has a crush on him does a strangely inappropriate sexy dance for him. He stares. Jackie Chan gets drunk and breaks down, delivering a heartbroken speech about how he lost his wife and child in a car accident. He stares. At one point he has to tell Jackie C, "You're the best friend I've ever had" and the line reading is akin to something from an old Peanuts TV special. After that, a brief stare, followed by an awkward hug. The boy's performance is a drinking game waiting to happen and not since Glitter has the star of a film been this inert. But who knows, maybe this is his Godfather, Part 3 and one day he's going to show us all by directing his own Lost in Translation. There's precedent.
Little Known Facts About Beijing Kung Fu Tournaments For Children That This Movie Is Pretty Excited to Share With You: They're all extremely loud, UFC-style events, soundtracked with blaring AC/DC and Red Hot Chili Peppers songs, paparazzi are flashing their bulbs ringside and matches are overrun with brutality and death-blow moves that no one seems to bat an eye over. It's like something out of No Holds Barred. The key to winning them is, of course, to break out the striking-cobra move you saw a master martial artist do this one time but that you've never actually practiced yourself.
You Will Be Forgiven If You Find Yourself Rooting For: The evil Chinese bully kid named Cheng (Zhenwai Wang), whose motive appears to be simple boredom. If I had to be in this movie I'd claim ennui as an excuse myself.