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Friday, May 27, 2011

Kung Fu Panda - No Charge For Awesomeness

Kung Fu Panda: 4 out of 5

Note: Obviously the new Kung Fu Panda arrives in theaters this week, so I figure I would post my thoughts on the original film.
Po: Wow, your all so much bigger than your action figures. Except you Mantis, your pretty much the same.
This movie proved to be way more enjoyable than I thought it would be. It combines wonderful animation with some great humor from the performers and over the top zaniness that reflects recent action scene in various wire-fu movies. It all works to be the best computer-animated Dreamworks film since the original Shrek.

Jack Black stars as the title Panda, Po, practicing what is essentially Jack Blackanese throughout. He is a heavy weight panda, working for his father (a goose) in a noodle shop. Po is also a huge fan of the Kung Fu warriors living in a temple on the highest mountain.

Through what appear to be a series of misunderstandings, Po is suddenly chosen as a skilled warrior, known as the Dragon Master. This is obviously objected to by the other, professionally trained warriors and their masters, and they attempt to try and make him leave. Po persists and eventually becomes more liked among them.
Po: Maybe I should just quit and go back to selling noodles.
Oogway: Quit, don't quit? Noodles, don't noodles?
Meanwhile, a villainous former warrior has escaped from prison, with the intent of returning to the temple to cause some trouble. It eventually comes up to Po, of course, to stop him, after learning some secrets of the trade on the way.

The story is really nothing new for fans of both kung fu films and family oriented comedies, but its all in the execution, and this movie succeeds, so Skadoosh!

Along with Jack Black, the film features a really high list of credible stars including Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogan, David Cross, Ian McShane, and Michael Clarke Duncan. While Jolie is kinda a bitch throughout, and Chan is virtually unused, Rogan delivers a lot of laughs through his lines and character of Mantis and Hoffman's back story is surprisingly effective to the characters. James Hong (Pai Mai in Big Trouble Little China, among other roles) also worked for me as Po's consistently spirited father.

The animation is also amazing. It always astounds me that these CG movies keep improving upon themselves to look even better than the last. I still remember being taken by Shrek, let alone Toy Story. Gives me even further hopes for Pixar's upcoming Wall-E. Still, for this movie, everything is wonderful, fully imagining the abilities of these characters, combined with a large variety of skillfully handled action sequences.

It was also nice to see this movie stay focused in its own zone and not use pop culture references throughout. I don't object to this in other films if it works, but its nice to have more plot and character oriented humor for a bit of a change.  This movie was wonderfully entertaining, containing a lot of memorable moments and good use of a simple premise.
Tail Lung: Who are you?
Po: [exhausted from climbing the stairs] I am the dragon master.
Tai Lung: You? But your a panda. What are you going to do, sit on me?
Po: Don't tempt me.
 

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