|Directed by:||Mark Osborne, John Stevenson|
|Cast:||Angelina Jolie, Jack Black, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Dustin Hoffman, Ian McShane|
Kung Fu Panda is just a joy to watch unfold, with perfect voice work, quality characters, plenty of butt-kicking and action, and animation that is fascinating to behold. The movie starts off on a high note and immediately starts introducing its underdog, Po the Panda, to us as a lovable klutz who lives and dreams kung fu. He is voiced perfectly by Jack Black, and is hard to dislike, as he is continually finds joy in kung fu, food and adoring his favorite kung fu masters. He is also a big teddy bear really, as he is one of the kinder, gentler characters in the movie. After being labeled ďthe chosen oneĒ, his journey to work with the kung fu masters is more than fun, as the overweight panda must train and prove himself to his new friends and the city. Itís hard not to like a movie like this, that is constantly reiterating quality values that kids and parents can admire, and the film has just the right mix of different characters, action and emotional involvement, making for a consistently fun time with a little bit of food for thought afterwards too. Enough time is spent on training and teaching, without becoming too much or not enough, and the action is consistent, with an ending that is a blast to watch. And, maybe most important, the filmmakers rely heavily on CGI to bring the characters to life, set in beautiful old China, with detailed inner-city dwellings and dark, moody atmosphereís that help bring a sense of tension (later on in the film) surrounding the villain. The CGI is extremely well done, and truly helps bring the story to a vibrant, colorful life.
The story isnít fantastic but isnít exactly a dud either, just an average story that works more times than not because of what the story contains, which is enjoyable characters, dialogue and action. Most of the stuff in the film is telegraphed and fairly predictable. Luckily, the film is still enjoyable because it has enough factors working in its favor that you just donít mind the predictability of it all. But, yes, there is some redundancy and conventional scenarios. Also, I would have liked to have gotten to know the legendary Furious Five a bit more, as they tended to only concentrate on one of their stories the most (Tigress, and her desire to be the ďchosen oneĒ) and the others only get some talk time. They were all fun characters though, just not as vital to the story as I hoped. But, I guess you canít have everything.
There is a lot to like here, and even with a fairly basic story, the filmmakers still made it work, with characters, action and animation that definitely kept and held my attention. Overall, this is an upbeat, well made film that should be enjoyed by most, even those who arenít big animation fans. Give it a try!