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Movie Review: KUNG FU PANDA (PG ****)

June 15, 2008

I have to give the creative minds at DreamWorks Animation a lot of credit for originality.  Twice a year, they offer up a movie that puts an interesting spin on what could be a perfectly ordinary concept.  Their first offering for 2008 is the funny and exciting KUNG FU PANDA.

The Panda in question is Po (Jack Black).  Po would like nothing better than to be a part of The Fabulous Five:  five animals each representing a different fighting style of the martial arts.  The Five are Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan, who deserved to have more lines, but then, it’s not Jackie’s movie),  Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), and Crane (David Cross).  Po dreams of joining this group and impressing them with his fighting abilities, but there are a couple of problems with this dream.  Problem one:  Po ‘s family is in the noodle soup business, and problem two:  Po lacks ANY kind of physical conditioning for Kung Fu.

Meanwhile, atop of The Faboulous Five’s mountain home, bad news is afoot.  The ancient turtle Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) is having visions of the evil Tai Lung (Ian McShane) escaping his prison cell and returning to the mountain to seek his revenge against the Master of the Five, Shifu (Dustin Hoffman).  Oogway and Shifu decide that only the Dragon Master will be able to restore peace to the valley.  To find the Dragon Master, the Fabulous Five will face off against each other to determine the Dragon Master.

This is a perfect opportunity for Po’s family to sell lots of noodles.  Po, on the other hand, sees this as an opportunity to get close to his heroes.  And, Po does indeed get close to his heroes, but the results are completely unexpected, as Oogway names Po as the Dragon Master.  Despite Shifu’s protestations, Oogway insists that Po be trained for the coming battle.

It’s obvious right away that NOBODY thinks Po stands a chance.  Even worse, NOBODY wants Po around, and have no problems making that clear.  Tigress is particularly resentful, as she felt that Oogway was going to choose her as the Master.  Meanwhile, Po’s training is painful for both Po and Shifu.  I should say that it’s painful for them and hilarious for us.  The Five’s training room is an insane obstacle course of spiked wheels, flaming floors, and unstable surfaces, and Po can’t handle any of it.

But Po isn’t ready to give up, despite his doubts.  In one of the best of the quiet scenes, Po and Shifu realize that they are meant to work together as Master and Student.  Shifu isn’t sure just how, but he does see a glimmer of hope in the big bear. That’s good, because the Five have gone off to seek out and defeat Tai Lung, who did escape from prison in a hair-raising battle scene.  Shifu, meanwhile discovers that Po’s motivation is food, and uses that motivation to train Po.  The climax of the training scenes gives new meaning to the phrase “food fight”.

The climax shouldn’t be a big surprise, and I don’t think there were meant to be any surprises at the outcome.  Still, getting to this outcome is nothing short of funny and amazing.  The kung fu sequences were blazingly paced, invoking Jackie Chan’s style more than once, although Chan only provides vocal support to the movie.  Furthermore, Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger’s screenplay offers several moments of verbal and visual comedy that kept me laughing and smiling all the way through.  I find it very interesting that this year, two of the best action movies I have seen revolve around martial arts, and both feature Jackie Chan, even though, as I said, he’s in a supporting capacity this time around.  I have a feeling that if KUNG FU PANDA continues to ride high at the box office, we’ll be seeing a follow-up within the next few years.

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3 comments

  1. […] following ones I don't want to …The IAmRobNotBob Blog – http://iamrobnotbob.blogspot.com/Movie Review: KUNG FU PANDA (PG ****)Twice a year, they offer up a movie that puts an interesting spin on what could be a perfectly […]


  2. […] Movie Review: KUNG FU PANDA (PG ****) The ancient turtle Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) is having visions of the evil Tai Lung (Ian McShane) escaping his prison cell and returning to the mountain to seek his revenge against the Master of the Five, Shifu (Dustin Hoffman). … […]


  3. still gotta see Kung Fu Panda… Jack Black is classic for sure; he’ll be forever famous for his work in School of Rock



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