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Review: Kung Fu Panda

Jun. 9, 2008by: Chris Bumbray

Plot: Po the Panda (Jack Black), dreams of someday becoming a Kung Fu master- but instead seems destined to spend his life working at the family noodle shop. To his surprise, Po accidently chosen to become the mythical Dragon Warrior, which puts him in training alongside his Kung Fu idols, The Furious Five- Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Crane (David Cross), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogan), & Viper (Lucy Liu). It also places him under the impatient tutelage of Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) - who doesnt believe Po has what it takes to become the next Dragon Warrior. However- when the evil Snow Leopard, Tai Lung (Ian McShane) escapes from prison- Shifu is forced to put aside his lack of belief in Po, so that the overweight, and clumsy Panda can save his village from Tai Lungs rage.

Review: Jack Black strikes again! I have to admit- I had serious doubts about KUNG FU PANDA. The trailers for the film made it look like some idiotic CGI remake of BEVERLY HILLS NINJA (gulp!), but the finished film is actually one of the best non-Pixar CGI films to come out since the original SHREK. Eschewing the increasingly tiresome pop culture references that pop up in the SHREK sequels and recent films like MADAGASCAR & HORTON HEARS A WHO!, KUNG FU PANDA actually plays things relatively straight, and is nowhere near as manic and off the wall as I thought it would be.

Basically, the film seems like a reworking of a couple of early Jackie Chan vehicles (particularly Chans first breakout hit- SNAKE IN THE EAGLES SHADOW,), which might explain Chans (limited) inclusion in the voice cast. Basically, Black (in CGI form as an overweight Panda), takes on the classic Chan role, of the clumsy, wannabe martial artist, whos ridiculed by his peers (THE FURIOUS FIVE in this film), but eventually becomes a warrior under the unconventional tutelage of his sifu (which is where Hoffman comes in).


One thing that really surprised me was how relatively straight the film plays out, especially during the fight scenes, which are actually pretty impressive- despite the fact that all the players are CGI. Black especially, seems pretty toned down in the film, and is not his usual off the wall self. While hes still funny (and gets of a lot of typical Jack Black lines), he actually brings a lot of heart and sincerity to the film- and proves that he might have a broader acting range than most people think. I also absolutely loved Dustin Hoffman as the voice of Shifu. While no one can deny Hoffman is a legend- his last couple of roles have been pretty weak, but hes in top form in KUNG FU PANDA. Ian McShane also does a great job as the evil Tai Lung- which will comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with his awesome work on DEADWOOD.

I was a little disappointed with the fairly limited amount of screen time dedicated to The Furious Five- especially considering the big names voicing them. It would have been nice if Jackie Chan had gotten a few more lines considering his legendary status in the Martial Arts genre- but then again, the film is called KUNG FU PANDA- and not The Furious Five. I also wished the filmmakers had not put a cover of the song Kung Fu Fighting over the end credits- as I think this is a really stupid clich that I hoped the film would avoid.

Minor quibbles aside- KUNG FU PANDA was a lot of fun, and Im not the least bit surprised that its raking in the dough at the box office. Its a great flick for the whole family, and I would not be surprised to see a KUNG FU PANDA 2 pop up in a few years.

Grade: 8/10

Source: JoBlo.com

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