Kung Fu Panda is a real joy to watch. From the opening dream sequence spoofing the clichés of the Kung Fu Genre to the final battle it pleases with deadly accuracy.
Po the titular Panda(voiced by Jack Black) is the son of a noodle chef fated to inherit the family business. But Po dreams of becoming a kung fu master, despite his awkward lumbering body and his lack of discipline.
Po Idolizes The Furious Five: Crane (David Cross), Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogan), Viper (Lucy Liu), and their master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and jumps at the chance to see them perform but in his enthusiasm to get to the demonstration, he accidentally fulfills the prophecy of the “Dragon Warrior,” which legend tells will protect the valley from unspeakable evil. That evil appears in the form of Tai Lung (Ian McShane) who escapes from prison and vows vengeance on those that imprisoned him. Now Po must train to become the Dragon Warrior of Legend, and prove himself to the reluctant Shifu, Furious Five, and more importantly, to himself.
The story is simple and well worn, but the presentation is wonderfully fresh and inspired. The film hits the ground running and doesn’t stop until the credits roll. While watching, I was surprised that the film has little to none of the clichés that abound in modern CGI films. Almost completely missing was the loudmouthed wisecracking sidekick, the scatological humor, the self reflexive wink & nods towards pop culture. Instead what we are presented with are truly charming moments that succeed in being genuinely funny while driving forward the characters and story forward.
Jack Black does an excellent job as the bumbling Po. His Shtick is tempered and used to good effect and he fills the character with such a charming enthusiasm that you really do believe in and root for Po. Dustin Hoffman also surprises as the diminutive Shifu. He gives the character weight and history that really lets you believe and feel the inner conflict he faces while training Po. Ian Mcshane also gives a ferocious performance as Tai Lung. The rest of the cast does an adequate job but do not stand out.
The Actions sequences are beautiful choreographed and thrilling. If I have a complaint its only that the film never slows down enough to really show us how “Crane style” comes from Crane, or Monkey style from the Monkey etc. The characters are well rendered and are distinct and still cuddly and the world is lush and vibrant.
This is a family film with laughs and Heart. I recommend it highly.
The World Premier was Sunday 1, and ENI was able to get onto the red carpet.
Although we did not have the best seats in the house, it was exciting nonetheless. The Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood was done up with booths in the style of the movie. There was a band, some martial arts demonstrations. Boo Boo Stewart (from the Disney Channel and who also appears in the music video for the film) lead a dance routine. And Jack Black sang “Kung Fu Fighting” with Cee -Lo.
Producer, Melissa Cobb spoke to us and said that the entire production was a joy to work with, and even she got a little star struck when she first met Dustin Hoffman and Jack Black, but that soon faded as they became friends, “Jack and I did lunch regularly – he’ so funny”.
The Writers, Ethan Reiff & Cyrus Voris (story) as well as Jonathan Aibel (Screenplay) (Glenn Berger was unable to attend) also spoke with us. They all agreed that they shared a love of Kung Fu Movies. Ethan and Cyrus said they would often find themselves the only Caucasians in the theater when they made their way out to Chinatown in New York to catch the latest flicks. But they ate their dried seaweed snacks (no popcorn in a real Chinese theaters) and loved every minute of it.
They also said that one of the big and surprising challenges that they had brining the characters to life was the question: Do the animals wear clothes?
”You would not believe how many meetings we had to determine that” said Joanthon.