'The Martial Arts Kid': Film Review

Traditionz Entertainment
This cut-rate 'Karate Kid' fails to make the grade.

Familiar martial arts faces Don "The Dragon" Wilson and Cynthia Rothrock help Hayden Panettiere's kid brother Jansen deal with bullying in this family film.

Knock-offs seldom come more shameless than The Martial Arts Kid, a family-oriented drama about a bullied teen who learns to overcome his troubles with guidance of a skilled, Zen-like master.

Pinned down by lethargic pacing and clunky plot exposition, this debut release from Traditionz Entertainment, a distributor specializing in martial arts titles, will unlikely make audiences forget Daniel and Mr. Miyagi anytime soon, but it should manage to hold down the fort until the inevitable arrival of The Tae Kwon Do Kid.

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When his grandmother can no longer keep him in line, troubled teen Robbie Oakes (Jansen Panettiere) is shipped off from Cleveland, Ohio to Cocoa Beach, Florida, where he goes to live with his Aunt Cindy and Uncle Glen (played, respectively, by martial arts stars Cynthia Rothrock and Don “The Dragon” Wilson).

Turns out Uncle Glen happens to run Space Coast Dojo, which comes in handy when Robbie makes the mistake of chatting with the girlfriend (Kathryn Newton) of town bully Bo Whitlaw (Matthew Ziff).

Not only does Uncle Glen teach Robbie how to be a better man, he also settles a score with a rival of his own—Kaine (T.J. Storm), the tough-guy proprietor of Extreme Dojo, whose “Mite Makes Right” credo goes against Glen’s own “Focus+Power+Spirit=Zenergy” philosophy.

As directed by Michael Baumgarten, from a script he co-wrote with Adam W. Marsh, the big showdown between Robbie and Bo--and Uncle Glen and Kaine—take seemingly forever to arrive, needlessly pre-empted by the inclusion of too many seaside vistas and lingering reaction shots.

A much tighter edit also would have helped the performances.

While Panettiere, who shares with sister, Hayden, those prominent eyebrows, exhibits a nice likability, Wilson and Rothrock, who have something like 100 screen credits between them, aren’t exactly in their element navigating the extensive, exposition-laden line-readings before they’re allowed to strut their stuff.

By the time they finally do get down to business, many of those targeted viewers will have already been bullied into fidgety submission.

Production company: Traditionz Entertainment

Cast: Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Cynthia Rothrock, Jansen Panettiere, Matthew Ziff
Director: Michael Baumgarten

Screenwriters: Michael Baumgarten, Adam W. Marsh
Producers: James Wilson, Cheryl Wheeler

Executive producers: Cheryl Wheeler, Dr. Robert Goldman, Maurice Elmalem

Cinematographers: Robert Hayes, Denis Maloney
Production designer: Thomas Downey

Costume designer: Sonia Woodfield

Editor: Phil Norden

Composer: Kazimir Boyle

Casting directors: Gerald I. Wolff, Kristine Nite

No Rating, 105 minutes