Movie Review: Kung Fu Panda

By Scott Lumley

June 21, 2008

The tiger is the only one of the two smart enough not to marry Billy Bob.

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Let's just get this out of the way right off the top. Kung Fu Panda is really Good. Really, Really Good. I don't say this lightly, but it's PIXAR good.

Shocked? I was, too. I expected another DreamWorks pop culture-a-thon. What I got was a movie that was much much better than I ever anticipated. This should be out on DVD in about six months and it's going right into my collection and into my DVD player as soon as possible. It's just that good.

This movie does not fail on any count. The voice casting is note perfect. From Jack Black to Ian McShane to Dustin Hoffman, there is not one missed note. The animation is stellar in every regard, and in comparison to the last Pixar film, looked even cleaner. The jokes are outstanding, if somewhat slapstickish, but there is little lull. Every dramatic moment, action sequence and pratfall is well scripted. If anything, I was left wanting more. I am hoping beyond hope for a Kung Fu Panda sequel, because I really want to see more of these characters and the world they live in.

Ah, yes, I can feel it. Let me answer some questions. No, I'm not a Paramount employee. No, I'm not a plant and no I'm not Jack Black. I don't even like Jack Black. His usual shtick sets my teeth on edge and his standard characters usually move me towards the remote. Specifically the change channel button.


But in this movie, he was an absolutely perfect casting choice. He is 'Po The Big Fat Panda' and everything that entails. He hates his life, loves his heroes and would do anything to spend some time with them. In short, he's you or me or anyone else stuck in a job they hate, living a life they don't want to live. And when in a fluke he is given an opportunity to live the life he has dreamed of, he'll do anything to hang onto it, no matter how painful hanging on might be. I can't think of any other actor off the top of my head who could pull this off this believeably. The fact that all he has to work with in this case is his voice has very much strengthened my regard for Mr. Black as an actor.

The movie is not perfect. You don't actually see the ending between hero and villain, it's only implied. The film's message is a little heavy handed despite being dead on, and the Master's exit halfway through the film was borderline ridiculous.

But all those things are trivial. Treat yourself and see Kung Fu Panda. Few movies ever meet their expectations. This one exceeds them.



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