KUNG FU PANDA (2008)
Featuring the voices of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Randall Duk Kim, James Hong, Dan Fogler, Michael Clarke Duncan and Kyle Gass.
Screenplay by Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger.
Directed by Mark Osborn & John Stevenson.
Distributed by Dreamworks SKG. 92 minutes. Rated PG.
More and more often in modern film, animated films are made more for adults than for children. Kung Fu Panda is an excellent example of this.
That is not to say that children won’t enjoy Kung Fu Panda – they will – though it is way too violent for smaller children. Then again, so were Looney Tunes and the Three Stooges, so this is nothing new. My six-year-old nephew just knew there were a bunch of animals fighting and that was all that was really needed to make him happy.
However, I doubt that children watching Kung Fu Panda will comprehend much of what is going on or what films are being parodied. Many of the gags will go right over their heads.
Which is okay, there is no law saying animation is the divine providence of children (see: The Simpsons). Also, unlike some more adult animations, it can be seen and enjoyed by children, even if it is on a different level.
Kung Fu Panda is a parody of the chop-socky martial arts films. Basically, it could be just about any of Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee or Jet Li’s films – if only these actors were animals.
Jack Black does the voice of Po, an overweight panda who works at his father’s noodle shop but dreams of becoming a Kung Fu master. (The movie takes place in a weird alternate world where apparently dodo birds can give birth to pandas – the movie teases with the idea of a revelation of Po being adopted by his feathered dad, but it never comes.)
The real masters of Kung Fu are a tigress (voiced by Angelina Jolie), a monkey (Jackie Chan), a viper (Lucy Liu), a crane (David Cross) and a mantis (Seth Rogen). The fighting force is known as the Furious Five (hey, wasn’t that Grandmaster Flash’s posse?) and are taught the ways of the ninja by their wise elders: an aged turtle and some kind of weird little owl/chipmunk-y looking thing (voiced by Dustin Hoffman – they really got some serious talent for these roles).
Somehow, through a set of slapstick mishaps, it is decided that Po is the missing link to the fighting force and the only being who can turn back an evil panther that wants to destroy their village.
The story doesn’t make much sense, and it really doesn’t have to. However, it has some clever dialogue and some nifty visual effects to keep the interest.
How you react to Kung Fu Panda probably depends somewhat on how you feel about martial arts movies. I couldn’t care less about the genre, so often Kung Fu Panda left me a little cold. That said I do respect the craft and humor of the film – so while for me it’s a qualified recommendation, I can totally see why many people would embrace the movie wholeheartedly.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 12, 2008.