(5/5) – animation, action, comedy
Kung Fu Panda is a beautiful, vibrant, original and, dare I say, inspirational, movie. I had high expectations going in and they were exceeded.
Animated features are hardly a novelty these days. We take their high production values for granted. Yet this Dreamworks production is a notch above. It has an authentic Chinese and kung-fu look and feel. The directors and artists pay particular attention to the details of Chinese architecture, painting, sculpture and philosophy. The colours are more vibrant, more real than usual. It ‘feels’ warmer and more believable. During the movie I noted to myself that this movie should be well received in China. It’s as close to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) as an animated movie can get.
It’s funny. I laughed out loud many times. With one exception (hint, there’s a Nacho Libre reference) it does not rely on the inside-Hollywood humour that has become common in animated movies. Instead, the movie’s original story stands on its own.
As you’d expect, Kung Fu Panda is about an unlikely hero becoming more than he ever thought he could be, facing his fears and prevailing over his own doubts and, ultimately, evil. It’s not original in that way. It’s original insofar as the movie marries the underlying personalities of the actors with those of the characters and the needs of the story. It’s as if the writers studied the actors and crafted an original story to suit their unique characteristics. As a result Po, the Panda, is lovable, chubby, energetic, quirky, whimsical, funny and over confident – just like Jack Black. Dustin Hoffman’s Shifu (the Kung Fu Master red panda) is a short, easily annoyed, somewhat eccentric, yet stalwart character, just as Hoffman is. And Tigress is a proud, disciplined, strong-willed, and confident character, just like Angelina Jolie.
Barring something spectacular, Kung Fu Panda should be a shoe-in for Best Animated Picture. See it on a big screen if you can. It’s fun for the whole family.