Kung fu flick is fighting fitBy Kim Francis
July 03, 2008
Kung Fu Panda (PG)
Stars - Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Ian McShane & Lucy Lui
With so many CGI animations these days, it is perhaps understandable that the majority stick to a tried and tested formula.
So when one comes along that veers away from conventional plotting, pacing and scripting and, indeed, animation techniques, it’s a pleasant surprise.
Kung Fu Panda is an absolute treat and makes you realise how stifled and staid the genre has become, as the film studios roll each new moneyspinner off the production line.
Animator John Stevenson has teamed up with director Mark Osborne to co-direct this heartwarming story from the Dreamworks Animation studio about Po, an overweight noodle chef panda, voiced by Jack Black.
Po loves kung fu and when kung fu expert Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and the legendary Furious Five come to town for a ceremony that determines the identity of the fabled Dragon Warrior, events conspire to ensure Po is chosen.
It falls to Shifu to train Po to fulfil the prophecy and save the Valley of Peace from the clutches of the evil snow leopard Tai Lung (Ian McShane).
Kung Fu Panda is unique: it brings us a main character that is both sympathetic and funny. There is no comedy sidekick as such here to play the fool and generate all the laughter, Po is instead the source of the majority of the mirth in this engaging film, able to raise a smile with a simple movement of his face or wobble of his belly.
Indeed, the animation surpasses anything that has gone before, taking most of the plaudits for the film’s entertainment value.
The script and performances come a close second, however. With some quite subtle humour interspersed between the more traditional funnies and set-pieces, Kung Fu Panda has depth and that elusive feeling of spontaneity.
Black and Hoffman clearly delight in their roles – you can sense they are having great fun as these adorable characters.
Both, along with a cast that includes Lucy Liu, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen and Jackie Chan, help to ensure that Kung Fu Panda is more engaging and consistently entertaining than the likes of more formulaic fare such as Disney-Pixar’s Cars.
Pastiches of Kung Fu movies, notably Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, bring an extra dimension to delight those familiar with the genre while genuinely touching and sometimes quite beautiful moments ensure that Kung Fu Panda is more than just a comedy animation and more than just a family film.
As far as CGI animations go, Kung Fu Panda is up there among the best.