I’ll admit that I usually shy away from films that seem to be showered in hype. I like to march to the beat of my own drum when it comes to discovering an under-appreciated gem and yet still found myself intrigued by the glowing opinions surrounding DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda. Sure Jack Black was decent in Shark Tale and Eastern Philosophy would probably naturally lend itself to the notion of martial arts masters who just so happen to be adorable talking animals but come on! It can’t be that great, right? Wrong!
Until picking up Kung Fu Panda, I was pretty thoroughly convinced that aside from Shrek, DreamWorks was doomed to play second fiddle to Pixar in the world of computer generated animated feature films. Kung Fu Panda manages to combine story originality, magnificent visuals and genuine humor so flawlessly that it is much to Pixar’s detriment that they have nothing to offer in terms of competition.
KFP tells the tale of Po (Jack Black); a panda that works in a noodle restaurant owned by his father Mr. Ping (James Hong), who just so happens to be a goose. Po is a kung fu fanatic with secret dreams of becoming a great master in the discipline despite no prior training and a body style that favors weight and clumsiness.
The tortoise Master Oogway (played brilliantly by Randall Duk Kim) has a premonition that the evil snow leopard Tai Lung (Ian McShane), the former student of his own protégé, Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), will escape from prison and return to threaten the Valley of Peace.
Oogway orders a formal ceremony to choose the Dragon Warrior, a supreme master of kung fu and the one who can defeat the lethal Tai Lung should the premonition come to pass. It is assumed that one of the Furious Five: Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), and Crane (David Cross) will be chosen for this honor.
Po, in attempt to simply spectate the event, finds himself smack dab in the middle of the ceremony. Oogway, surprised by the panda’s sudden appearance, designates him the Dragon Warrior and hence Po is immediately in way over his head.
It’s tough to come up with anything new to add to a film that has already been so thoroughly praised since its inception but that’s no excuse for me to refrain from trying. I was quite dazzled with Kung Fu Panda’s solid homages to classic kung fu movies while simultaneously brining an original and attention-worthy story to the table. Pacing, plot structure, and character development are all top notch through and through and the humor, which is often so natural as to appear nearly unintentional, is the icing on the proverbial cake.
It is often suggested that DreamWorks tends to release in quantity what Pixar does in quality but every once in a while a DreamWorks production manages to raise the bar for all of the other studios to attempt to follow. The stars aligned a decade ago when Shrek was released and it would seem the studio has managed to find that magic once again in Kung Fu Panda.
What did you think of this review?