Kung Fu Panda (2008)

THE SCOOP
Director: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson
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.

Genre: Animation/Action/Comedy/Family
Awards: Nom. for 1 Oscar - best animated feature.
Runtime: 92min
Rating: G for sequences of martial arts action.

IN RETROSPECT

Kung Fu Panda is DreamWorks' best animated release since the global success of Shrek in 2001. The second major animated picture this year after Horton Hears A Who!, Kung Fu Panda is timed p
erfectly to cash in on the profitable summer blockbusters period, and more strategically, to avoid direct competition with Pixar's new feature, the highly-anticipated WALL.E which will hit our shores in August. The debut feature film of Mark Osborne and John Stevenson, Kung Fu Panda provides an auspicious start to their filmmaking careers.

As the title suggests, the film is about an overweight noodle-selling panda, Po, who harbors dreams of becoming a top kung fu warrior. By accidental luck, he finds himself being labeled as the next Dragon Warrior whose immediate task is to defeat the evil Tai Lung and bring peace to the village. The story of an underdog rising from a humble background to become a destined fighter has been interpreted in many ways and in different genres of cinema (e.g. Rocky, Kung Fu Hustle). Kung Fu Panda is no different; in fact there's nothing original about its plot. So what makes the movie worth the dollars?

Two reasons. Jack Black and the hilarious portrayal of Po. There's no one better to do voice-overs for Po than Black. He captures the characteristics of such a character with unnerving accuracy which is not a surprise as Po is modeled heavily after Black. Furthermore, Po is created in such a way that every body movement and facial expression of his are highly exaggerated, providing a heavy source of comicality and laughs aplenty. As a matter of fact, Kung Fu Panda is arguably the funniest animated film in years.

The action sequences defy physics ala Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. They are kinetically pleasing though much less inventive than expected. One standout sequence involves a scramble over a dumpling between Po and his master using chopsticks and plenty of side-splitting acrobatics. In a nutshell, DreamWorks scores a direct hit with Kung Fu Panda, injecting a sense of freshness to an otherwise traditional and cliché narrative. There's no better way to snack on Hello Pandas than this. Recommended!

GRADE: A-

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