Year Released: 2008
Directed by: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson
Starring: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Ian McShane, David Cross, Seth Rogen, Michael Clarke Duncan, James Hong, Randall Duk Kim, Dan Fogler
Production Company: DreamWorks
Release Date: June 6, 2008

Watching Kung Fu Panda I was a little stunned. Watching the lush Chinese landscapes and real world lighting made me think “Is this a PIXAR movie?”. The backgrounds and attention to detail were THAT GOOD. It became immediately apparent to me that I wasn’t watching a Disney based company once the supporting characters were introduced. They were given so little to do, had flat dialogue that it wasn’t even worth putting the star voices names in the end credits. The characterizations were flat, given the virtual environment. That sentence even sounds a little clumsy as the characters are actual animals and the voices didn’t seem to fit as well as Panda.

Okay, the movie does have some highlights, even if the animation and story team didn’t talk to one another, they at least collaborated on the slapstick comedy and fight sequences. I found myself laughing at the fat-panda jokes, plus the role of Po, the giant noodle serving panda was custom made for Jack Black.

Panda discovers gravity exists only in the Pixar world

The movie opens with a 2D dream sequence of Po, the giant Panda. He’s daydreaming of becoming an ultimate kung fu master, while the reality is that he’s slinging noodles for his duck father Ping (the always hilarious James Hong). Po idolizes the ‘furious five’, the five kung fu masters of China, each a different animal with unique fighting styles: Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Crane (David Cross). Their master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) needs to choose the fabled dragon warrior soon, and teacher Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) is sure one of his pupils is up to the task. After a series of hilarious events, Po is chosen as the dragon warrior, much to the dismay of the furious five, and even to Po himself. Master Shifu sees through this hefty panda and try as he might, tries to discourage him from learning kung fu. Meanwhile, the feared kung fu warrior Tai Lung (an awesome Ian McShane) escapes from prison and is on his way to steal the dragon scroll the furious five and master Shifu protect. With only the fabled dragon warrior destined to stop him, it’s a race against time to train poor Po the mastery of kung fu.

All these animals, yet no Kung Pao Chicken?

The fights are absolutely awesome, for a bunch of CGI pixels you can feel those hits. For Po’s fight scenes; a mix of Buster Keaton hilarity mixed with good willed kung fu, they’re fun to watch. Take the movie into context and for a moment watch the lush backgrounds and appreciate the natural lighting of the environment. According to Wikipedia the animators took years to develop the look, researching Chinese architecture to get the right look and feel. All their work certainly paid off, as you feel immersed into the world of talking animals.

If you want a beautiful looking family friendly romp that’s close to PIXAR standards, look no further than Kung Fu Panda. There’s enough laughs to keep all ages happy, but if you want something with a little more meat, the adults out there might want to check out the infinitely more entertaining, and subtle WALL-E.

8 out of 10