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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Kung Fu Panda (review)

It’s kinda like The Forbidden Kingdom meets a reverse Ratatouille: Po (the voice of Jack Black: Margot at the Wedding), a clumsy panda, works in his father’s noodle shop yet dreams of being a member of the legendary kung fu warrior team the Furious Five… and then he gets his chance, and he’s hopeless at it. Where this charming and gorgeously animated flick — which kids of all ages, including the grownup ones, will love — goes from there is into a realm that encompasses both enrapturing silliness and pretty profound wisdom, for a kiddie flick. And even better, it’s the kind of wisdom that kids will understand and take to heart… and it’s not such a bad reminder for us grownups, either. The Five’s teacher, Master Shifu (the voice of Dustin Hoffman: Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium) reluctantly takes Po under his wing — well, he doesn’t have wings, unlike Po’s goose father; Shifu is a small red panda, and he’d be adorable if he didn’t have to be so stern and serious all the time — when an ancient prophecy names Po the unlikely defender of the Valley of Peace. Po learns to trust himself; Shifu learns that a teacher just needs to uncover every student’s hidden motivation; and we call are the recipients of the insight of those who know food: I love the secret of Secret Ingredient Soup! Plus, there’s a dumpling duel. Beautiful animation, a few good laughs, and dumplings. What more do you need?


MPAA: rated PG for sequences of martial arts action

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
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  • FrankS

    Sit through the end credits – there’s a nice 10 second scene at the end featuring Po and Master Shifu.

  • I love this film, easily the best film of the summer so far for me.

  • Jurgan

    Great to hear it. This was the kind of movie where I thought it could be good but would likely be bad. But I agree with you almost 100% on animated movies (except maybe some more obscure anime), so I’ll give this a look.

  • pedro

    wait, i don’t get this…Po’s a panda…and his father’s a GOOSE!?

    is Po adopted!? or was there some inter-species hanky-panky?

  • MaryAnn

    Yes, Po is adopted. It’s one of the movie’s jokes that this is obvious to everyone but Po.

  • pedro

    also, michael clarke duncan was listed as one of the voices in the movie, but i couldn’t hear him at all. is he the rhinoceros guard at Tai Lung’s prison? if not, which character does he voice?

    also, it irked me that jackie chan got all of eightlines of dialogue (seriously, i counted ’em!) the man is funny as all hell, he saved “the forbidden kingdom”, and now they treat him like some cameo voice actor!? his Monkey had the potential to be the funniest thing in this movie (yes, even more than Po). yet he is…nothing. how sad.

  • pedro

    oh yeah – and this is a much better martial arts movie than “the forbidden kingdom”.

    and that final battle was among the funniest things i saw in an animation movie, ever.

  • amanohyo

    I agree pedro, the martial arts in this movie beat the pants off of the stuff in Forbidden Kingdom. A bunch of cartoonish anthropomorphic CG animals outdid the dream team of live action martial arts. What in the hell is the world coming to?

    And you’re right, Michael Clarke Duncan is the voice of the head rhino guard at the prison. I would’ve liked to have seen a little more character development for monkey and the other members of the five too, but there’s not much downtime to work with in a kids’ movie.

  • pedro

    i think we saw more than enough of tigress. crane was all right, too. but i wish we’d seen more of monkey and mantis. can you imagine a movie where seth rogen and jackie chan traded quips a la timon and pumbaa? and where, to boot, their Simba would be voiced by jack black?!

    i sure can….*sighhhhhhhh*

  • pedro

    oh yeah – and as for “not too much downtime in a kid’s movie”. i’ve read that one before, and i call bullshit.

    there IS space for supporting character development within a children’s movie. just look at timon and pumbaa. they are comic relief, sure, but they have well-rounded personalities. same for that cat in an american tail. same for rex the dinosaur and slinky dog and mr. potato head. can you tell me monkey’s defining personality trait?!

    thought so.

  • amanohyo

    Point taken. I should have said, “there’s not much downtime in most recent, popular, action-heavy, plot-lite, kids’ movies.” And I loathe almost every wisecracking animal (and genie…, and robot) sidekick I’ve ever seen.

    That idiot dragon in Mulan is at the top of the list, but Timon and Pumbaa aren’t far behind. Monkey enjoys silence and meditation. I’d prefer that he had some more screen time and/or dialogue, but not if it meant T and P style wisecracks or Mr. Potato Head + wife gags.

    Then again, I am a cynical misanthrope with an odd (but not completely absent) sense of humor. Not exactly the target audience for these types of movies. Except for Tarzan and Freaky Friday (which were average), I’ve hated every Disney movie starting from Aladdin on. I even hated all the Shreks, and I am in the target audience for those.

    If you’re looking for funny, read the last sentence of this article on Lucas. That put a smile on my face this morning. Probably intentional (on Katzenberg and imdb’s part), but still hilarious.

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