a critiQal film review Kung Fu Panda (2008)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: When Po (Black) is unexpectedly chosen to fulfill an ancient prophecy, his dreams become reality as he joins the world of Kung Fu and studies alongside his idols, the legendary Furious Five, under the leadership of their guru, Master Shifu (Hoffman). Before they know it, however, the vengeful Tai Lung (McShane) is headed their way, and it's up to Po to save the day.

648 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 14s)
  • ...an animated Jack Black keeps the laughs coming in this fun family film.

For week #6 of our Summer at the Movies – 2008 Edition, we decided to check out our first animated film of the summer: Kung Fu Panda.

Of course, the hype recently surrounding Kung Fu Panda has turned toward celebrity gossip instead of movie promotion lately, as Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman have been dropping tidbits about co-star Angelina Jolie’s pregnancy, including her due date and that she is having twins.

While this tended to overshadow the movie promoting, I was still interested in seeing a film featuring the voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie and the first animated voice by Dustin Hoffman. So, when Kung Fu Panda hit theaters this past weekend, didn’t stand a chance – Kung Fu Panda was this week’s film for us.

While the celebrity voices are numerous in Kung Fu Panda, none stand out quite so much as Jack Black. He voices Po the Panda, the hero of this tale, and his voice is recognizable from the first syllable. While most may consider him a rather physical comedian, he’s usually limited to what he can do based on actual physical laws. Animated, however, gives him a chance to toss off the pesky laws of gravity and such and take his physical acting up a notch.

Po the Panda is the perfect vehicle for this. With Po, Jack can let his voice carry him and the character into a new realm of physical comedy, and the audience should enjoy every minute of his new-found freedom. Whether he’s out of breath after racing up a flight of steps, using his powerful belly bump or uttering the catchphrase “Skidoosh,” Jack’s Po will have audiences guffawing with regularity.

Dustin Hoffman lends his voice to Master Shifu, and does a good job of blending his voice with the character on-screen. While is more like an animated Jack, Shifu manages to come across more as a character in his own right who only happens to sound like Dustin Hoffman.

This trend continues with the other characters, and the voices of (to some extent or another) Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen and the rest do a good job of blending almost completely into their characters.

This, of course, excludes Michael Clarke Duncan, who’s deep-throated growl is distinguishable anywhere – but since his character is the leader of a large contigent of prison soldiers, the commanding voice is a good fit for the role.

The animated side of Kung Fu Panda is very well done. At times simpler than it’s counterpart Disney, Dreamworks Animation usually does a pretty good job of bringing it’s animated characters to life. While this is due in large part to the voice cast, the animation does do it’s part, keeping the audience attuned to the happenings on-screen.

With the comical trials of the very out-of-place Po, the film spends a lot of it’s time focusing on the funny, rather than the eye-popping. True, there is a rather vicious bad guy that puts in a few appearances, but the majority of the film focuses on Po, giving the audiences that familiar fish-out-of-water comedy that has been drawing audiences in for years.

Done right, this fish-out-of-water storyline can be hilarious – done wrong, it just makes the audience feel uncomfortable. Thankfully, Kung Fu Panda gets it right, and keeps the laughs coming.

Basically, Kung Fu Panda boils down to being a fish-out-of-water comedy with an animated Jack Black – in other words, a good time. Sure, the other actors do a good job adding their voice talents to the film, but this is really a Jack Black film – thankfully, one of his better ones.

Sure, the film is more aimed at the younger generation, and that’s why a lot of parents will end up going to see Kung Fu Panda. Thankfully, Jack Black and the rest do a good job making it fun for the whole family.

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