Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Just when someone was about to walk up to those cats at Dreamworks and ask them to take a seat and let those clowns at Pixar do all the heavy lifting when it comes to animated movies, along comes ‘Kung Fu Panda’ which easily rates right up there with Pixar / Disney’s best in my humble opinion. Though I’m pretty sure the latter studios upcoming ‘Wall-E’ will be darned good, because it is Pixar after all, but it’s going to have to be DARNED good to be better than ‘Kung Fu Panda’. For real.

Po the Chinese Panda (voiced by Jack Black) has a dream, I mean literally has a dream, to be a great kung fu master, and quite honestly who among us doesn’t have that dream? Unfortunately Po’s reality consists of working in his father Ping’s (James Hong) noodle shop. It is curious that Ping is like a stork or something so I’m not quite sure about the genetics of all of that, but it’s all good. High on the mountain of this mystical land of talking animals sits a revered school of martial arts lorded over by the dour Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) as he trains his five disciples known as the Furious Five under the watchful eye of HIS master, Oogway (Randall Duk Kim). There is trouble because Oogway has had a vision that the scourge of the village, Tai Lung (Ian McShane), who was once the schools prize protégé, but has now turned into a dark violent beast, will be free which will be bad for like everyone on earth. With the threat of Tai Lung looming, Oogway must name one of the furious five, which consist of Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Crane (David Cross) and Viper (Lucy Lui) to hold the coveted title of The Dragon Warrior, and thus read the mystical scroll which grants unlimited power. Don’t ask how, but crazy circumstances have led to Oogway naming Po the panda, the one with no skills or training, as the Dragon Warrior which upsets everybody, particularly Master Shifu and Tigress.

The problem is that Po doesn’t know nary a lick of Kung Fu, is overweight, lazy and lacks focus – and Dreamworks is about to catch a lawsuit for basing a character on me without my permission. The problems mount as Tai Lung has broken free of his prison and is on his way to seek to revenge, and being as it’s been written that only the

Dragon Warrior can defeat Tai Lung, all seems quite lost. Master Shifu is attempting to make things difficult on Po so that he’ll quit and Oogway will name another of one his disciples as the Dragon Warrior, but dreams do die hard and Po, as lousy as he is, sticks with it. Of course all of the stick-toitiveness isn’t going help the village against an undefeatable foe because they need a hero and soon. The Furious Five are going to give it their best but we need the Dragon Warrior, and though he was reluctant at first, it looks as if Master Shifu has found the key to unlocking his new portly student’s inner dragon. But will Shifu be able to unleash Po’s potential before Tai Lung comes-a-calling? Stay tuned.

I’ve always been of the thought that people who call other people stupid because they like or don’t like some movie are actually stupid themselves. So what that somebody likes some movie and you and the rest of the world didn’t? Its okay to disagree but name calling is bit unnecessary wouldn’t you say? Now I’m not going to go off and call anybody who didn’t like ‘Kung Fu Panda’ stupid, but I will call you a mean person who’s in desperate need of a hug. There are actually film critics out there who didn’t like ‘Finding Nemo’. That pretty much makes you Burgermiester Meisterburger. ‘Kung Fu Panda’ is very sweet, wonderfully animated, and a cleverly told story with very good voice acting that is bound please just about any kid who happens to go the theater to watch this film, and will also please 99% of their parents who go along with them, with that 1% being the Burgermeister Meisterburger faction. It also helps ‘Kung Fu Panda’ that it is a film based on old martial arts movies and uses pretty much every martial arts movie cliché available in telling its story but, since the story is being told through talking ducks and the like, what was once old all of the sudden seems new once again, as ‘Kung Fu Panda’ turns out to be the martial arts movie homage that ‘The Forbidden Kingdom’ was supposed to have been.

There is one thing though, with the fact that the movie is kind of violent. It’s cartoon violence obviously but there are a couple of rather intense action sequences that feature a lot of CGI animal on CGI animal assault which could be counter productive if you’re trying to teach your children that a roundhouse kick to the face isn’t a valid problem solving technique. And as anybody who’s ever seen a kung fu movie as a kid will attest, that the minute the movie was over you were trying out your new moves on the closest little brother available. You’ve been warned.

Fun for the whole family! It’s like a barrel full of Slinky’s! But seriously, if you’re looking for a fun movie to take the kids too that will entertain you as well, and you don’t hate Christmas, I don’t think you can go wrong with ‘Kung Fu Panda’.

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