“Kung Fu Panda”
**** out of ****
Director: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson
Cast: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie
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 fucked the entire movie up for me and it also fucked 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, and goddamnit, 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.