Film Review: Kung Fu Panda | Audacious delight for the family

2008-06-29 00:00

From the lovely storybook look of the opening sequence to the rousing climax little over an hour later, Kung Fu Panda is a perfect holiday film, drawing gales of laughter from everyone, grannies to little kids.

It’s a simple story — a dreamer gets the chance to live his dream, despite the odds. Panda Po (voiced by Jack Black) is big and clumsy, but he dreams of Kung Fu. Life in his father’s noodle shop doesn’t allow much time for that sort of thing, though.

High on the mountain that towers over the Valley of Peace live five Kung Fu masters: Tigress, Crane, Viper, Mantis and Monkey, trained by master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and overseen by wise old tortoise Oogway. To Po they are legendary — action figures in his bedroom. But there comes a day when a Dragon Warrior is chosen to confront a Kung Fu master gone bad who is about to escape from prison.

By sheer determination to get in and see the selection of the new hero, Po ends up being chosen, much to his surprise and the dismay of Shifu and the five masters. He’s keen, but hopeless — until Shifu unlocks the secret to his motivation.

It’s all so fast that there’s not much time for backstory, motivation, side plots — all the stuff that can get in the way. Instead, Kung Fu Panda is mostly stunts. Bizarre kung fu moves that because they are animated, can be truly amazing. Oddly, because of live-action martial arts films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and House of Flying Daggers, even the most physics-defying moves seem as if they could be “possible”.

There are jokes, but most of the laughs are at the sheer audacity of the action.

It’s the type of thing that actually appeals to little kids, rather than the clever stuff that really appeals to their parents (and most of all to the people making the films).

I am a big fan of animation, but some animated films are not really meant for kids. Cars was lovely, and clever, but there was a lot that probably dragged for six-year-olds. Nothing in Kung Fu Panda does. Take the whole family for a fun time.

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