Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Review: Kung Fu Panda (2008) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Mark Osborne and John Stevenson
Written by: Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger
Genre: Animation / Action / Comedy
MPAA: Rated PG for sequences of martial arts action
Released: 6 June 2008 (USA)
Starring: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane , Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Randall Duk Kim, James Hong, Dan Fogler, Michael Clarke Duncan.

Plot: Po the Panda is the laziest animals in all of the Valley of Peace, but unwittingly becomes the chosen one when enemies threaten their way of life.

Review: 8/10

My Thoughts: It’s no secret that since the mid 90’s DreamWorks has been competing for dominance over their highly successful competitor Pixar in the “Animation War”, but with every successful film they have produced, Pixar has always been able to do twice as better and end up on top in the end, it would seem that if it wasn’t for the “Shrek” films, DreamWorks would surely lose the fight, and even though the last instilment in their Shrek franchise prove to make a ridicules sum of money it still lacked in story telling that the last two film had provided quite nicely, for me this was a low blow for DreamWorks because it’s competitor Pixar has yet to overdo with the same jokes repeatedly to make up for a weak plot, this of course had cause me to pre-make up my mind on this film and want to avoid it in theaters. However I still got to see it because a few fellow moviegoers offered me a free ticket as long as I tagged along as company, the only thing I’d have to do is pay for my own popcorn, now how can someone like me refuse such an offer? [Laughs], so with that I was well on my way into seeing this movie, know I went into it with low expectations and already doubting the film’s success to entertain me in my mind.

So with the lights coming to a dim I said to myself “oh boy, here we go” while rolling my eyes at the screen. But then after about five minutes into the film had passed, something completely unsuspecting and quite remarkable happened, I found myself laughing, I than realized that I’m actually enjoying what I’m viewing on screen, and found the film had a very good plot that is able to be understood by kid, while very much enjoyed by adults, and the comedy itself is also to a level that both children and adults will enjoy. Now once I knew I liked how the film was going my only concern was that small children wouldn’t ruin the film by, yep you guessed it, making loud noise in the theater room. As most already know children screaming and making noise is inevitable in a theater room, and can be the ultimate mood killer for any moviegoer, but to my surprise the only sound kids were making was of cheer and laughter alongside everyone else in the theater room, the experience was a one of kind for me, not ruined and completely entertaining, my only problem was the tagline the plot carries, the whole “you can do it if you just believe in yourself” method.

Which as you know is so overly used in Hollywood that there isn’t a year that goes by that we get bombarded by films with such an ideology that one might think that the powers that be in Hollywood is trying to brainwash people into thinking a certain way. but with all things set aside it did not ruined the film one bit for me, in fact what I found was the film introduced some very important morals to the youth on today’s times, like hard work, discipline and a humble mind is the perfect combinations for achieving your goals, also the film deals greatly on the subject of discrimination, from hints of racial discrimination, to obesity discrimination, see our main characters, “Po’ (Jack Black) is an overweight Panda who is picked to become the chosen one, now in the story Pandas are not looked at as fighters and because of him being somewhat heavy he is looked downed on by both his peers and his teacher, however he must overcome all their negativity to become what has been foretold and become what many doubt to ever being possible, the film has quite a few touching moments which is heartwarming the very core of one’s heart. It also introduces the same cinematic feel that the old fashion Kung Fu movies had with a taste of its own brand of martial arts, overall it is worth the view, and rather you have kids or not, or just a kid at heart, and I will say it may not be able to compete against a powerhouse film like Pixar’s WALL·E, however it’s still greatly disserving to be right up there among the other fantastic film in it’s genre.

The Story is about, Kung Fu Panda is the story of Po, (Black), a sweet, but clumsy Panda who has dreams of fighting with the legendary Furious Five and protecting the city against all threats. The only problem is that Po has no real life experience of kung fu, and his real job is serving noodles at his dad's noodles shop. News of selecting the Dragon Warrior is sent out from the Jade Temple, and the whole city along with Po, go to the celebration. The competition is between the Furious Five: Tigress (Jolie), Viper (Liu), Crane (Cross), Monkey (Chan), and Mantis (Rogen). Po accidentally enters the contest and is named the Dragon Warrior. Master Shifu (voice Dustin Hoffman) must find a way to train Po and make him a Kung Fu Master, especially, after they learn that the snow leopard, Tai Lung (voice Ian McShane), is headed their way.

As for the acting: well I can’t really say that this is acting, after all this movie is an animated adventure, and the only acting that is done by the actors is their voice work, however I’ll still judge them in the best way that I can. Jack Black was great, I must say his voice matched Po the panda to such a degree that it’s unimaginable to even think of anyone else voicing this character, you could say he gave the character that extra fuel to light it’s fire even brighter. Dustin Hoffman was a very interesting mix to the cast, because I never would have thought him acting a film such as this, but boy was I wrong, not only did he do the voice of Master Shifu good, but he did so that I didn’t even recognized it was him at first until I saw the credits. Angelina Jolie was great as Tigress, she gave the character the stability and drive that was needed to make it work. Ian McShane was magnificent, he’s an actor that in my opinion has always had this sinister tone of voice, and adding that to his evil character Tai Lung made it spot on! Jackie Chan was wow! He completely surprised me with this role as Monkey, and left me satisfied to the fullest. Seth Rogen was great, I must say this isn’t exactly the type of film I’d normally like to see him in, he still did a great job, and I give him kudos for it. Lucy Liu did a wonderful job as usual. David Cross was also great, and the fact that he’s an actor I don’t really care for all that much, mean by me saying he’s did a great job means a lot coming from me. Randall Duk Kim was outstanding as Master Oogway, he gave the character kindness and wisdom that will touch the hearts of viewers all around. It was nice to see James Hong in this, I tell you, no matter what the film is, may it be good or bad, he always bring a bit of enjoyment to me when his on screen. sadly I can’t say the same for Dan Fogler, an actor I can’t stress enough I don’t care for at all, and don’t fimd funny in anyway no matter what film you put him in, however he did do a somewhat okay job in this, I won’t say good, but not bad, just okay. Michael Clarke Duncan has a small, but very satisfying role in this.

Final Say: Kung Fu Panda prove to have heart, and the ability to show that DreamWorks has what it takes to make something wonderful that can amount to what the mighty Pixar can dish out, I had a great time at the movies with this diamond in the rough, I look forward to DreamWorks next film to see what they can come up with next, and of course I will certainly be looking forward to Kung Fu Panda 2. I highly recommend.

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