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kung fu panda

Kung Fu Panda
Mark Osborne, John Stevenson
Cast: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu

Jeremy Welsch
AKA The Rub

June 10, 2008


More than a decade since the release of Toy Story, the new car smell from the age of computer animated feature films is gone. Anymore, it is difficult to justify liking something simply because it looks good. I’m afraid that ship has sailed. No, now we assume the films will look great and we look to the story to work in conjunction with the animation to make a great film. Nowadays our assumptions and expectations have been heightened by the success of so many computer animated feature films, but there are a few really great ones. It is to clear off a spot towards the top because we have a new member into that illustrious circle.

Kung Fu Panda is the story of Po (Jack Black), a gentile, lumbering beast of a panda who works for his father, who just happens to be a goose, in his noodle shop. He daydreams of kung fu but is not what you would call a pillar of physical fitness. No, he is as clumsy as you would imagine a panda bear to be at such a skillful art such as kung fu. Or waiting tables. Or walking stairs, up or down. Po idolizes the Furious Five, a group of supremely skilled martial arts warriors trained by their master, Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), so much so he talks to their action figures in his bedroom window upon waking up each morning. When an ancient master has a vision that an imprisoned evil warrior Tai Lung (Ian McShane), a former student of Shifu, will escape and return malice to the Valley of Peace, he calls for a formal ceremony so he can determine who is the mightiest of warriors and name them the Dragon Warrior.

Po heads to the ceremony, overwhelmed by the prospect of being able to see in action and in person, the Furious Five: Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), and Crane (David Cross). He lumbers up the infinite amount of stairs to get to the stadium only to realize it has taken him so long the doors have closed, leaving him outside with no clear line of site. As the ceremony takes place inside and the Furious Five perform, he finally devises a plan to make it inside to see the action. Only he falls in from the sky just as Master Oogway is choosing the Dragon Warrior. Who do you think he picked?

This much and the rest of the story is void of any real surprises from a narrative perspective, but the writing is not lazy either. It’s just pretty modest martial arts fare. So what makes the movie so good? I can’t really say it’s any one thing more than another. The story is good enough with the perfect blend of action and humor. My only complaint is that the characters of the Furious Five weren’t as developed as the rest. It would have made the story longer and probably resulted in a loss of steam, but I would have liked to see more of them. And I know I just got through saying it doesn’t count but it is worth mentioning that the animation is really spectacular. DreamWorks Animation really stepped up their game from their previous films. Not only is it beautifully drawn and colorfully vibrant, the action scenes are extremely well choreographed. You can definitely tell a lot of care was put into making them as artistic as possible.

The more I think about it, the best part of the film is not all of the things I mentioned but more what it is not. The original idea of the film was to make it a parody and a spoof of martial arts movies. But co-director John Stevenson disliked the idea and went decided to give the film and epic feel to it while blending in light comedy so it could stand beside the films he aimed to model it after rather than make fun of them. Mission accomplished.

Now there’s your secret ingredient.

And there’s the rub


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kung fu panda

Kung Fu Panda
Mark Osborne, John Stevenson
Cast: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu

Tony DeFrancisco

June 16, 2008


I don’t know what it is about animated films, because aside from their animation, nothing about them really seem to impress me. Aside from last year’s “Ratatouille” and “Paprika,” (and not including “The Simpsons Movie”), many animated flicks are meant for kids. And let’s be honest, they are (except for “Paprika”). When it comes to me reviewing animated flicks, I’m the big bully on the school ground and I’m picking on your movie left and right. Case in point: “Horton Hears a Who.” One very big problem messed the entire movie up for me and it also messed up the entire movie’s plot.

“Kung Fu Panda” is an exception. Of course, it can’t beat “Ratatouille,” but it has certainly beaten every single movie released this year so far. It is now my favorite Dreamworks Animation movie. It is now my favorite Jack Black movie. And this will be the only review for a movie that Dan Fogler is in that I will give four stars… I can’t believe it either.

In the Valley of Peace, a noodle-serving panda named Po (Jack Black) is the laziest and probably the biggest fan of kung fu to ever live. When he hears that they are announcing the new Dragon Warrior at the Jade Temple, he rushes out there but, as a result, doesn’t actually get to go to the ceremony in time. Instead, he gets fireworks and blasts himself over the Temple fence, in which a turtle named Oogway (Randal Duk Kim) declares him the next Dragon Warrior. This would be great news to Po, but even he knows that he has no experience in kung fu what so ever.

The news that he has no experience offends the Furious Five, a group of animals (Tigress – Angelina Jolie, Monkey – Jackie Chan, Mantis – Seth Rogan, Lucy Liu – Viper, Crane – David Cross) that are under the wing of Master Shifu. (Dustin Hoffman) In order to run out Po from being the Dragon Warrior, they put him through tasks that demand a kung fu warrior’s strength, which he obviously doesn’t have. When that doesn’t run him out, will the news of a snow leopard (Ian McShane) ravaging through the city do so?

“Kung Fu Panda” is great because instead of only appealing the children, it appeals to teenagers and older people as well. I believe that when I saw it, I was the only teenager in the entire theater. Everyone else had to be ten and younger and were accompanied by a parent. Not that this disappointed me the least bit, but it meant that I thought that they were going to disrupt my movie-watching and critiquing. But to my amazement, “Kung Fu Panda” didn’t just hold the interest of me, but everyone else. The only peep that I heard from everyone around me was laughs and applauses. If I’m wrong, I got about a hundred people to vouch for me.

It may just be me being a kung fu fan, but I insanely loved the many kung fu references and homages here and there. The best scene in the movie, hands down, is the scene where Po and Shifu have a chopstick fight. You heard me correct, and don’t think that it is the least bit corny or cutesy. It takes a lot for a battle like this to hold my attention, this held my attention twenty minutes after the fight was over.

The animation for this film was perfect. The animation crew has to give themselves a pat on the back for the stellar animation. Like “Ratatouille,” I actually thought that while I was watching the film that this is a real kung fu movie. All that I can say is that if “Wall-E” wants to win the Best Animated Film award at the Academy Awards next year, it has a lot of fierce competition.

I know I guess it would be kind of hypocritical to say this, but people don’t see animated movies anymore because they are usually directed to kids. They won’t see it for the reason that they don’t want to be in the same theater with kids and babies. They won’t see it because why should they when a movie like “You Don’t Mess With The Zohan” is playing next door and “The Incredible Hulk” is playing across the hall. And to tell you the truth, I don’t blame them. I went into the film with probably the smallest expectations ever and I came out a happy man who just realized that the film he just watched with the same exact audience was the best movie of 2008 so far.