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Kung Fu Panda (2008)

Prepare for awesomeness.

Directed by:

John Stevenson

Mark Osborne

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 92 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: PG

On DVD

Country: United States

Kung Fu Panda looked cute in the trailers—who doesn’t love a panda, right? DreamWorks has had some animated success (Shrek, Madagascar), but for every big, green ogre, there’s a time waste like Bee Movie or Flushed Away. Kung Fu Panda looked to fall somewhere in between, not quite the classic of Shrek but definitely not a Seinfeld-starring debacle. Happily, short previews didn’t do this movie justice, and I think it’s safe to say the big guy is destined for stardom.

Po (Jack Black) sells noodles, the perfect career for a roly-poly panda with an insatiable appetite, but not exactly the path to becoming the Kung Fu expert he dreams of being. In other parts of the land, when wise Master Oogway envisions the escape of vicious Tai Lung (Ian McShane) from prison, Kung Fu Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) is confident that one of his skilled protégés will be chosen to be the Dragon Warrior—a superior fighter who can defeat the big baddie. Fate steps in, and a series of events leads to the selection of Po to be the Dragon Warrior, much to the dismay of Shifu. Po’s got heart, though, and what he lacks in skill, he makes up for with major effort—proving that his destiny may not be governed by coincidence after all.

This isn’t one of those animated films that needs a “but it’s for kids” caveat added on to make it worth watching. Yes, it is indeed a “family movie,” but it’s also genuinely funny, has a solid story, and benefits from the voice talents of Black, who infuses Po with a self-depreciating humor that would have been lost had the job gone to someone else. The animation is some of the best I’ve seen in a while, especially the fight sequences and the background shots of the mountains and landscape. And, as for those action scenes—they’re actually pretty exciting, maybe even a little too intense for very young kids. What Kung Fu Panda benefits from the most is in the things it DOESN’T have—gross-out humor, tons of one-liners and pop culture references, or a simple story. Sure, it’s a tale we’ve all heard before—find the inner beauty or power or what have you—but it’s done well in this case with very little cliché and a lot of clever humor that doesn’t feel like a big wink-wink-nudge-nudge to adults. This is what the best of any genre should be, regardless of intended audience—timeless.

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It's Got: Humor, heart, and fighting praying mantis.

It Needs: Maybe more interaction with some of the other fighters—again, gotta love a Kung Fu Mantis.

DVD Extras “Meet the Cast,” “Pushing Boundaries” (CGI featurettes), “Sound Design,” “Kung Fu Fighting” music video, “Mr. Ping’s Noodle House” (shows how to make a noodle), “How to Use Chopsticks,” “Dragon Warrior Training Academy” game, DreamWorks Animation Jukebox, Trailers and DVD-Rom stuff. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10

Alternatives:

Monsters Inc., Shrek, WALL-E

Summary

Better than your typical “family” film, Kung Fu Panda has all the laughs, love, and action you could hope for in any movie, let alone one about a noodle-selling panda doing Kung Fu.

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One Comment

  1. Julia
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Shrek is better, but this movie HAS to be the 2ND best ever dreamworks movie. Face it. Shrek 2 and 3 were flops. I hope that shrek 4 actually is worth seeing.

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