Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Skidoosh; or, My Review of Kung Fu Panda

I decided to take in a double feature the other night. It was a Monday evening, with nothing really going on, and there were a few movies out I hadn't seen yet that looked interesting. My double feature was Kung Fu Panda, followed by The Incredible Hulk.

First up, was Kung Fu Panda. A Dreamworks Animation Studios flick, involving a panda bear named Po (Jack Black) who lives with his adopted father (James Hong) and works in his noddle shop. Po dreams of being a great Kung Fu warrior, like his idols The Furious Five. It's a fairly average story line, with the big threat to the Valley of Peace breaking out of prison, and the only one who can stop him is the Dragon Warrior, who just so happens to be chosen as Po (accidentaly of course, or is it). The underlying theme is all about being true to yourself, and believing in your own abilities. Po is a bit of a bumbler, and no one believes he should be the Dragon Warrior, least of all the one who is to teach him Shifu (Dustin Hoffman)

The animation is superb (I won't sit here and compare it to a Pixar film, that's not fair to either studio, as each have there own merits), the opening sequence is done in a comic book style cell shaded look, that fits quite well. Characters are well concived, and really jump off the screen. The use of slow motion enhances the action of the martial arts sequences as well, although there are a couple times it gets used a bit too often. Overall, the film has a very cartoony look to it, which fits perfectly with the storyline. The backgrounds are good, but not overly breathtaking.

Most of the films dialogue is limited to Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman. However, the rest of the voice cast is pretty good as well. Limited roles from Angelina Jolie (Tigress), Seth Rogan (Mantis), Jackie Chan (Monkey) and Michael Clark Duncan (Commander Vachir) are good, but fairly straight forward, no frills stuff. Ian McShane plays Tai Lung, the antagonist of the flick, and does a good job as well, but again, not awe inspiring. The real gems come from James Hong as Po's father, a slightly goofy duck who hopes for nothing more than his son to take over the family noodle shop, and RandalL Duk Kim as Oogway, the wise old turtle. Both of them embrace their roles, and have a great time in them. They made for some of the funniest and more touching moments in the film.

I would certainly recommend this movie to anyone with kids. It's a great family movie. Funny, touching at times, and with a good message that everyone should follow. Plus, at 1 hour and 34 minutes, it's just long enough to have a good story, and short enough to keep the kids interest. The pacing overall is quite good too, no real lulls in the story, and the action sequences don't go on for too long. I liked this movie, while not the best movie of the year so far, certainly one of the more entertaining, and fun. Which is what I look for in a movie.

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