How 'bout that! Kevin actually liked Kung Fu Panda!

Earlier this year, I feared Kung Fu Panda.

No, I wasn’t terrified that some flabby panda was going to break into my home and beat the holy crap out of me (although who’s to say that won’t happen). Instead, I was afraid Kung Fu Panda was going to be nothing more than another Shark Tale.

After all, it was a DreamWorks movie, it starred Jack Black in the lead role, and Angelina Jolie lent her voice to a supporting character. The only thing missing was Will Smith and a whole lot of water.

Fortunately, I was wrong. None of my fears came true, and Jack Black even managed to make a movie (I believe his first since King Kong) in which he doesn’t sing or scat. Like Horton Hears a Who, which starred the usually annoying Jim Carrey, Kung Fu Panda manages to minimize the aspects of a Jack Black that make him unbearable (no pun intended).

The film centers on Po, a panda living in a small village in China. Po dreams of being a kung fu warrior. One day, while visiting the temple in hopes of getting a glimpse of the Furious Five (comprising a tiger, a baboon, a viper, a crane and a mantis), he is chosen by the elder to be the Dragon Warrior. The skeptical master Shifu must find a way to train Po in order to defend the village against the evil Tai Lung.

The first thing I noticed about the film that really knocked my socks off was the animation. Over the years, DreamWorks has been playing second fiddle to Pixar by producing similar movies that never quite compare, animation-wise. Antz was okay, until you saw A Bug’s Life. Shrek was cool, until you saw Monsters Inc. Shark Tale looked decent, until you saw Finding Nemo.

Without compromising the overall DreamWorks style, the animators were able to put together a rich, lavish film with sharp imagery. Like Pixar’s The Incredibles, Kung Fu Panda opens with a highly stylized but very retro look, then explodes into a realistic yet fun 3D environment.

The kung fu scenes are the best in the film, featuring bright colors and sweeping camera moves. These were exciting and also necessary to the story. I brought my kids to the screening, and they loved the film, so much so that they didn’t squirm or even want to leave their seats.

The story is cute enough, and the voice cast works. Jack Black is toned down to fit the mood of Po’s character. Dustin Hoffman presents a subdued yet grounded performance in Shifu. And the Furious Five (featuring Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, David Cross and Seth Rogen) provide nice support without hogging the screen time.

I was prepared to hate this movie, mostly from what I considered to be some pretty lame commercials. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked it. By and large, these CGI films have been pretty well made over the years, with only a few stinkers. And with Indiana Jones being the only thing close to a successful family film in recent weeks, Kung Fu Panda should carry a lot of weight.

THE UPSIDE: Brilliant animation wrapped around a fun movie.

THE DOWNSIDE: “Skedoosh” is sure to become a catch phrase.

ON THE SIDE: This is the second time Lucy Liu has played a “viper.” Her first time was in Kill Bill as O-Ren Ishii, codename Cottonmouth from the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad.

Grade: A-


ARTICLE TAGS
Like this article? Join thousands of your fellow movie lovers who subscribe to The Weekly Edition from Film School Rejects. Our best articles, every week, right in your inbox!
  %
%  
Comment Policy: No hate speech allowed. If you must argue, please debate intelligently. Comments containing selected keywords or outbound links will be put into moderation to help prevent spam. Film School Rejects reserves the right to delete comments and ban anyone who doesn't follow the rules. We also reserve the right to modify any curse words in your comments and make you look like an idiot. Thank You!
Twitter button
Facebook button
Google+ button
RSS feed



Some movie websites serve the consumer. Some serve the industry. At Film School Rejects, we serve at the pleasure of the connoisseur. We provide the best reviews, interviews and features to millions of dedicated movie fans who know what they love and love what they know. Because we, like you, simply love the art of the moving picture.
Fantastic Fest 2014
6 Filmmaking Tips: James Gunn
Got a Tip? Send it here:
editors@filmschoolrejects.com
Publisher:
Neil Miller
Managing Editor:
Scott Beggs
Associate Editors:
Rob Hunter
Kate Erbland
Christopher Campbell
All Rights Reserved © 2006-2014 Reject Media, LLC | Privacy Policy | Design & Development by Face3