Kung Fu Panda (2008)
Kung Fu Panda (2008)

Genre: Fairy Tale and Martial Arts Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.

Release Date: June 6th, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson Actors: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, James Hong




reamWorks Animation once again produces a computer-animated film that contains topnotch visuals, plenty of comedy, and recognizable celebrity voices. “Kung Fu Panda” also possesses a generous helping of heart, while Jack Black’s voice performance manages to be exceedingly entertaining instead of generally annoying, as some of his live action routines tend to become. With martial arts action, adventure, and jokes for both children and adults, this latest endeavor is worthwhile family entertainment.

“There is no charge for awesomeness,” states the all-powerful panda warrior Po, as he dreams about fighting droves of enemies and defending his home, the Valley of Peace, with his unmatchable martial arts skills and esprit de corps among his battling companions, the Furious Five. But when he awakes, Po (Jack Black) is nothing more than a clumsy and overweight noodle vendor who is destined to serve his village the finest meals possible, alongside his father (who is a goose). Po yearns to learn kung fu and help save his people by doing battle against all who threaten their way of life, but as his father continually reminds him, it is not his destiny.

Fortunate circumstances change everything one day when Po journeys into the city to watch the sage Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) finally choose the legendary Dragon Warrior, prophesied to defeat the vile Tai Lung (Ian McShane), a rogue warrior who has been locked away for years. The candidates are the legendary Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen, who seems to be in every animated film this year), Viper (Lucy Liu), and Crane (David Cross). When Po accidentally crashes into the arena via fireworks strapped to a wooden chair, Oogway pronounces the unconscious panda as the mighty Dragon Warrior.

Shocked and thrilled, Po joins the five skeptical, real warriors in the Jade Palace as they train to combat Tai Lung, who recently escaped from an inescapable prison stronghold. But the region’s greatest kung fu teacher, Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), is outraged at Oogway’s decision to leave the city in the hands of the unskilled panda. It will take everything in Po’s power to live up to the designation bestowed upon him, and to prove that even a chubby lummox can master the martial arts.

“Kung Fu Panda” is another technically superior achievement for DreamWorks Animation, utilizing some of the best computer graphics and animators available. The movements, textures, fur/hair, backgrounds, and lighting are impressively realistic, even though the character designs themselves are largely cartoonish. But those quirky designs are also outstanding, demonstrating a great sense of humor with Shifu’s tiny mouse, Oogway’s quivering turtle, Po’s roly-poly panda, and even background characters – such as a pig with five o’clock shadow. Going hand-in-hand with the hilarious character designs is the editing, which oftentimes mocks anime and martial arts films, and even starts off in stylized 2D animation during Po’s dream sequence.

Though most of the voices are instantly identifiable, for once the numerous celebrities don’t detract from the film. Jack Black is nearly perfect as Po, who one might imagine as Black in a panda suit. Unlike this year’s “Horton Hears a Who” remake, in which Jim Carrey and Steve Carell’s voices overshadowed their personas to the point that the classic cartoon roles were lost, Po is believable just as he is. Hoffman and the many supporting players also deliver appropriately subtle performances that don’t take the viewers attention away from the exploits onscreen. And although the re-watching value might be slim for adults, with the underdog tale remaining understandably generic, “Kung Fu Panda” packs a punch with its traditional martial arts mix of fast-paced action, way-too-powerful villains, and the destinies/legends/prophecies blend of high fantasy. Plus, the constant comedy (albeit immature, “a kick to the tenders” sort of humor) is sure to provoke chuckles from everyone.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10