Review: KUNG FU PANDA (2008) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Review: KUNG FU PANDA (2008)


When you think of Dreamworks Animation, all their recent animated features such as the one you find in SHREK series as well as 2004's SHARK TALE are smack of endless pop-culture references. So once in a while, it's quite refreshing the studio manages to carve out something witty and sincere without being mostly juvenile. The result is KUNG FU PANDA, a formulaic but charming fable about an out-of-shape panda with an eating disorder goes from zero-to-hero of becoming a kung fu master.

All his life, the chubby panda Po (voice of Jack Black) has been daydreaming of exploring his kung fu interest. He also has all the action figures of his favorite Furious Five, in which he hopes he can be a martial artist like them as well. But deep down, he's hardly has his dream come true especially when he is plain lazy and easily distracted by foods around him. So in reality, he works all day in a boring task of helping his father, Mr. Ping (James Hong), an old goose who likes his son to inherit his family noodle business one day. One day when the wise old turtle master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) announces the village that he will handpicked a Dragon Warrior and it could be anyone. But Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), a protege of Oogway, is strongly convinces that one of his prize pupils -- Masters Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu), Mantis (Seth Rogen) and Crane (Ben Cross) -- might be among the selected one. However, during some accidental events, Po ends up being chosen instead especially after Oogway points his ancient claw directly at him. Shifu and the Furious Five are both surprised and angered by the unexpected selection, but Oogway has his own reason why a chubby panda like Po is being chosen. Shifu refuses to train Po, but he and the Furious Five tries to get rid of him by torturing him through a series of tough exercises.

Meanwhile, Shifu's arch nemesis Tai Lung (Ian McShane), the gray tiger who have been confined for 20 years in the prison make a daring escape and vows to seek vengeance against him at all cost. When the news quickly breaks out, the Furious Five are out in attempt to stop him but to no avail. Realizing that choice is no longer an option, Shifu must train Po into the so-called Dragon Warrior, the only kung fu warrior who can stop Tai Lung.

KUNG FU PANDA is beautifully animated and very stunning to look at. The celebrity voices are top-notch (especially standout performances by Jack Black, Angelina Jolie and Dustin Hoffman), even for a minor role like James Hong's Mr. Ping gets a distinctive credit as well. The action are well-staged, which rivaled those you can find in most great live-action kung fu movies. Such spectacular and memorable set-pieces are Tai Lung's daring escape from imprisonment against a squad of rhinos soldiers, and the fight scene between the Furious Five and Tai Lung on a collapsing rope bridge.

Mark Osborne and John Stevenson's direction is fast and exhilarating enough to keep the viewers occupied throughout the movie, while Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger's screenplay inspire some worthy if unoriginal lessons about believing in yourself and that inner strength is always better over brawn.

Still KUNG FU PANDA remains quite a missed opportunity. There are supporting characters equally wasted, namely popular stars like Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu and Seth Rogen who all neglected into thankless roles. The finale where we see the way how Po defeated Tai Lung is strangely anticlimactic, and lack the kinetic aura of such promising action set-pieces shown earlier on.

While it's hardly Pixar quality, KUNG FU PANDA is an overall entertaining animated feature where both kids and adults will undoubtedly enjoy the movie.

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