Andre "Dre" Parker
Dre Parker is the twelve year-old protagonist of The Karate Kid. After the death of his father, Dre's mother accepts a job transfer from Detroit to Beijing, hoping to start a new life for them in China. Dre is deeply unhappy about the move, and quickly finds himself the target of the local bully when he's nice to the girl that he likes. Nothing appears to be going right for Dre, he's unable to get used to the Chinese way of doing things, he has no friends asides from Meiying, and he's constantly harassed by Cheng and his friends at school.
Dre's luck starts to turn around after meeting Mr. Han, a mysterious janitor who saves him from Cheng and his friends. After Mr. Han confronts Master Li, the leader of the studio that trains Cheng, he inadvertently agrees that Dre and Cheng will face off in a kung fu tournament. With that, Mr. Han agrees to train Dre in kung fu.
- Badass Adorable: It doesn't even look like he's gone into puberty yet.
- Blatant Lies: Claims to have run into a pole after getting into a fight with Cheng, but Sherry doesn't buy it.
- Chekhov's Skill: Snake charming, which Dre uses to psyche Cheng into losing control.
- Constantly Curious: Mr. Han is annoyed because of all of Dre's questions.
- Trains harder to help Mr. Han get over the incident in which his wife and son were killed in a car accident.
- Ends up finishing the tournament with a broken leg.
- Disappeared Dad: His father dies shortly before the start of the film.
- Easily Forgiven: Meiying's father is impressed with Dre reading a note of apology in Mandarin (with help from Mr. Han), and also agrees to attend the tournament with the rest of the family.
- Fish out of Water: Moves from Detroit to Beijing, China. Hilarity Ensues, as well as some drama.
- Fragile Speedster: He tells Mr. Han that he thinks himself one of these, since he can run really fast. True, but once Mr. Han's through with him, he becomes a Lightning Bruiser in terms of kung fu tournaments. Took a Level in Badass indeed.
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: His Chinese is rather poor...
- Idiot Ball: Throws a bucket of dirty water on Cheng and his friends to get revenge, and gets his ass brutally kicked.
- Intergenerational Friendship: Between Dre, who is around twelve years old, and Mr. Han, who appears to be in his fifties.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: In his typical boastful fashion, he claims to have been taught by a Brazilian and tries unsuccessfully to demonstrate a Capoeira ginga and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu mão de vaca on Mr. Han, who is obviously not impressed.
- Kung-Fu Kid: Dre quickly becomes quite talented in kung fu.
- Leeroy Jenkins: Recklessly charges at Cheng (and lands a slap which doesn't do much) when the latter goads him into a fight. It doesn't end well for Dre.
- Mighty Whitey: Downplayed. Dre goes to China and quickly becomes as competent at kung fu as the locals, but there is nothing in real life to prevent one of any nationality becoming a talented martial artist and Dre doesn't become that much better than then them. He simply learns a truer form of the art from Han than the perversion Li teaches Dre's adversaries. It's also explained by Underdogs Never Lose.
- Mouthy Kid: Dre's attitude gets him into a lot of trouble, especially with his mom. However it's heavily implied this is due to his father's sudden death.
- New Transfer Student: He moves to China.
- Phrase Catcher: "Pick up your jacket!"
- Sleep Cute: Towards his mom on the plane ride to China, and with Mr. Han on a train during his training.
- Took a Level in Badass: He starts off the movie getting pushed around by a group of bullies. In the end, he beats them fair and square in a kung fu tournament.
- What the Fu Are You Doing?: He doesn't really know kung fu until Mr. Han gets through with him.
- Your Normal Is Our Taboo: Applauds one of Meiying's performances at a time when it is inappropriate to do so.
Mr. Han is a janitor who works at the apartment complex where Dre and his mother are living. He keeps to himself for the most part, but is notably the one member of staff who appears to be the most fluent in English. He ends up intervening when he sees Dre being beaten up by a group of bullies from school, and takes care of his injuries. Mr. Han even confronts Master Li, the man who is training the bullies to 'show no mercy' at the 'Fighting Dragon' studio, and ends up agreeing that Dre will face off against his bully in a kung fu tournament. With that, he decides to train Dre in kung fu, and despite himself, ends up becoming very close to the boy.
Mr. Han lost his wife and son during a car accident that was his fault. He was arguing with his wife and not focusing on the road, and ended up crashing. He's never forgiven himself for it, and spends his spare time fixing the car, only to destroy it again on the anniversary of their deaths.
- Almighty Janitor: A literal janitor played by Jackie Chan, who is also a master in the ancient art of being Jackie Chan.
- Big Damn Heroes: Before Cheng could finish off a helpless Dre, Mr. Han appears out of nowhere, blocks Cheng's fist, and advises him to go home.
- Chekhov's Skill: Fire cupping
- Cool Old Guy: It's debatable about how old he is, but Mr. Han is certainly cool.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Effortlessly defeats Cheng and his friends without actually hitting any of them in the first place.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Accidentally killed his wife and son in a car accident, because he was too busy arguing to focus on the road. He feels very, very gulit over it.
- Deadly Dodging: When he defends Dre from bullies he never actually hits any of the kids, probably so the audience doesn't lose sympathy for Han and because it looks really cool.Dre: How'd you do that out there? You, like, didn't even punch them. They beat each other up.
- Deadpan Snarker: Describes the pole that Dre supposedly ran into as "interesting".
- Heroic BSoD: Breaks down in tears as he reminisces the anniversary of his wife and son's death, who were both killed in a car accident he blames himself for. Dre, determined to train harder, helps him out of it.
- Hypocrite: In the alternate ending, he prepares to deliver a finishing blow to a downed Li as he reminds him of the Fighting Dragons' "show no mercy" mentality, going against what Mr. Han taught Dre. Fortunately, Mr. Han relents when Dre shakes his head in disapproval.
- Intergenerational Friendship: With Dre, who is around twelve years old. Mr. Han looks as if he's in his fifties.
- Meaningful Name: Mr Han. "Han" is the name of the ethnicity that makes up the majority of China, so it's sort of like calling him "Mr Chinese Man".
- The Mentor: To Dre, training him in preparation for the tournament.
- Parental Substitute: Ends up becoming a father figure to Dre.
- Sarcasm Mode: Notes that, after doing his "jacket on, jacket off" technique for several days, something significant is missing: Dre's smarmy attitude when he puts his jacket on the ground.
Cheng is a fifteen year old kung fu prodigy who finds fault with Dre when he takes an interest in Meiying, as it's implied that Cheng has feelings for her. Cheng's the top student at the 'Fighting Dragon' studio, which is ran by Master Li, and he studiously follows Master Li's motto of 'show no mercy'. Cheng has a small group of dedicated friends who are willing to join in with bullying Dre, to the point of physically attacking him despite the unfair advantage. After Cheng is stopped from beating up Dre by Mr. Han, it's decided that he'll fight Dre in an upcoming kung fu tournament, with the agreement that he will leave Dre alone if he wins. He's as good as his word, and even presents him with the trophy. It's implied Cheng has a newfound respect for Dre after this.
- Character Tic: Death glaring.
- Contrived Clumsiness: Deliberately knocks over Dre's lunch tray and sarcastically says "Sorry!".
- Death Glare: Is fond of using it. It's scary for a teen, too.
- Defeat Means Friendship: Dre wins his respect after the former defeats the latter in the tournament finals; Cheng takes it a step further by personally awarding the trophy to Dre, and lightly tapping his shoulder a few times complemented with a smile.
- Dirty Coward: Has no problem ganging up on Dre with company.
- Graceful Loser: Has no hard feelings losing to Dre in the tournament finals, and takes this a step further by personally awarding the trophy to him.
- I Gave My Word: After losing to Dre in the finals, not only does he stop harassing him, he also personally presents the trophy to Dre.
- Jerkass: Actively bullies Dre (especially with friends) given the opportunity. His jerkassery dies down a little after he is ordered to leave Dre alone until the tournament, where he at worst delivers verbal taunts.
- Kids Are Cruel: He's a teen who shamelessly makes Dre's life miserable when the opportunity presents itself.
- Smug Snake: That smirk he flashes while walking away in the cafeteria scene transcends cultural boundaries.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Not only does Dre win his respect after the former defeats the latter in the tournament finals, he also personally presents the trophy to Dre.
- You Have Failed Me: In an alternate ending scene, Li is displeased with Cheng's loss in the tournament, and prepares to deliver an Armor-Piercing Slap before being stopped by Mr. Han.
Master Li is the head of the 'Fighting Dragon' studio, and his motto is to 'show no mercy'. He's brutal towards his students, and will physically hit them if they don't agree with him. He agrees that Cheng, his top student, and Dre will face one another in a kung fu tournament with the stipend that Cheng will stop harassing Dre if he somehow wins. Master Li, however, is willing to fight dirty to make sure that Cheng wins, and orders another student to damage Dre's leg so he can't compete any further. When Dre insists that he can continue fighting, Master Li demands that Cheng breaks his leg.
- Armor-Piercing Slap:
- Delivers one to one of his students after they fail to abide by his "show no mercy" mentality during a sparring session.
- In the alternate ending, he prepares to deliver one to Cheng after he loses in the tournament, only to be stopped by Mr. Han.
- Big Bad: The film's main antagonist, leads the Fighting Dragon studio, and teaches his students to be merciless to their opponents.
- Dirty Coward: Orders one of his students competing against Dre to damage his leg and prevent him from progressing in the competition. Takes this a step further when he demands that Cheng break Dre's leg.
- Finish Him!: He ordered Cheng to break Dre's legs in the fight.
- Kick the Dog: Is already known to be a jerkass, with the way he teaches his students to show no mercy to their enemies. But he steps into this territory when he slaps one of his students who didn't finish his opponent completely.
- Kick Them While They Are Down: Puts heavy emphasis that his students should never show mercy to their enemies, even encouraging his students to attack them while they are defeated.
- Sarcastic Clapping: His reaction when Dre decides to stay in the tournament with a leg injury.
- Sore Loser: Doesn't take Cheng's loss in the tournament well at all, and in an alternate ending scene, he prepares to deliver an Armor-Piercing Slap to Cheng before being stopped by Mr. Han.
- Would Hurt a Child: Won't hesitate to hit his students if they don't agree with his "show no mercy" mentality.
Meiying is Dre's love interest, a sweet girl who plays the violin. She's introduced to Dre when he compliments her on her music, and she inadvertently appears to cause the conflict between him and Cheng. Meiying wishes she could help Dre more against Cheng, but as their families are friends, it makes it difficult for her. Meiying is the one who teaches Dre about Chinese customs, and in return he helps her to take time out from her busy schedule to just be a kid; though this backfires when she's almost late for an important recital. Meiying is forbidden from speaking to Dre after this, but he's able to win her father over when he asks for his forgiveness, in Chinese no less.
- Elegant Classical Musician: Meiying is extremely talented at playing the violin, and while she's still young, strives to be elegant when she plays.
- Gamer Chick: She's really talented at DDR, to the point where she doesn't have to look at the screen.
- Girlish Pigtails: Both varieties, though she usually wears bunches rather than braids.
- Girly Girl with a Tomboy Streak: While Meiying is quiet and soft spoken and loves to play the violin, she also enjoys video games and is happy to run around the city with Dre.
- Neutral Female: To some extent, she never actively gets between Dre and Cheng, but she does try to tell Cheng to back off. Understandable because her family are friends with Cheng's family, and it would damage her family's reputation should she actively fight back against him.
- One Head Taller: Is actually a little taller than her Love Interest, Dre.
- Spell My Name with an "S": It's Meiying, rather than Mei Ying.
- Spoiled Sweet: Despite coming from a clearly wealthy family, Meiying is nice to everyone and goes out of her way to help Dre.
A boy living in China who befriends Dre as soon as he moves in.
- Black Best Friend: Inverted in that as soon as Dre moves to China, Harry starts being his friend but then disappears after a third of the way into the film. He does show up at the tournament at the end, but only if you watch closely.
- Surprisingly Good Foreign Language: Having lived in China for a while, he boasts fluency in Mandarin, as seen when he attempts to convince Cheng to leave Dre alone, only to be aggressively told off.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: He seems to be set up as a friend, a translator and a general supporter and help to Dre. But nope, after about a third of the way in we only see him in passing at the tournament. This is a Shout-Out to Freddy from the original film, who fades into the background after Daniel starts having run-ins with the bullies, but finally does re-appear in his cheering section. Also a weird case of Truth in Television; when in a new/unfamiliar location, people of similar backgrounds (national, cultural, and occasionally even ethnic) tend to stick together, if only initially. This is what happened with Dre and Harry - having seen that Dre is an American, the kid offers to help show Dre around the place, but quickly vanishes into the background as Dre figures things out and makes his own friends (and enemies). Harry is sitting there watching the tournament with Dre's mom and Meiying, further mirroring Freddy from the original. He just doesn't really say anything or do anything noteworthy.