Anthony's Film Review
Kung Fu Panda (2008)
Short and sweet with just enough cleverness and visual excitement to please the audience...
I'm going to say it right now. Kung Fu Panda is a predictable movie. A very predictable one. While this may be its major weakness, I am not recommending people to not see it. It is still fun and watchable over the ninety-minute running time. There are jokes that will at least make you giggle. There are action scenes that are pretty cool. And there are characters who liven up the screen.
Still, a movie that is predictable lacks a large dose of surprise. Take, for instance, the title character. Po the Panda (Jack Black) is a slothful bear who helps run a noodle shop along with his father (who, by the way, is a goose). Because he is a big fat creature, you expect a lot of jokes about getting tired easily and causing damage because of his weight. Well, that's exactly what you get. Although some of them made me laugh, there is such a long line of such jokes that it gets old pretty fast.
And when this character stumbles his way into being considered the Dragon Warrior, you can correctly predict what happens. The unlikely candidate proves that he can do it, yet other experienced fighters are skeptical. Here, we have five kung fu masters: Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross), and Mantis (Seth Rogen). They are trained by Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), who in turn had been trained by Oogway, a now-aged turtle. And you do need a villain for a story like this, and it comes in the form of a vicious snow leopard fighter named Tai Lung (Ian McShane).
Yet, Kung Fu Panda is not entirely boring. There is interesting dialogue among the characters plus a nice backstory involving three of the characters. There are four fight scenes that are pretty cool to see. If you are looking for some surprise that will make you say, "Ah, that's pretty neat," there are really just two of them. One involves a clever way to train Po in the art of kung fu. The other is about what it really means to be a great warrior. Because it has just enough clever stuff to throw in, I'm giving Kung Fu Panda a marginal positive rating.
The last thing I will say is about where this movie lies in comparison with other films from DreamWorks Animation. It may not be the greatest one from the studio, but at least Kung Fu Panda does not throw in pop culture references or jokes related to belching and flatulence, like with the Shrek movies. Also, Jack Black's role as a panda, though not a thoroughly developed character, is better than his prior role as a gentle shark in Shark Tale. Maybe if he were to give it one more shot in a DreamWorks animated film, he'll finally have a cartoon character he can truly identify with.
For more information about Kung Fu Panda, visit the Internet Movie Database.
In addition, check out my reviews of Kung Fu Panda 2 and Kung Fu Panda 3.