Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

He doesn't look like a fighter. He's overweight, he moves rather effortfully and slowly, and his priority is always food. He's a white-and-black, furry Jack Black. And that's the best thing about this Panda who's set to be the next Kung Fu master.

Most of the publicity for this movie is set around all the actors voicing the characters in this movie, people like Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu. However, you rarely hear most of these actors -- when you do see the characters, most of whom comprise the Furious Five -- tigress (Jolie), crane (David Cross), mantis (Seth Rogen), viper (Liu), and monkey (Chan) -- they're involved in fighting rather than conversing. You do hear a lot from Hoffman, but he's a guru who's ineffectual, especially faced with a project like Po the Panda.

Po works all day in his father's noodle shop but dreams of being a kung fu fighter. When he is unexpectedly chosen by the ancient master to defeat villain Tai Lung (voiced menacingly by Ian McShane), he hopes to learn everything kung fu from Master Shifu (Hoffman).

This is a comedy with lessons of family, loyalty and camarderie.... and esprit de corps where you "never give up." Or at least it seeks to be. I doubt if any kid got any of those lessons from this film. They were all busy in the theatre I attended throwing popcorn until the fight scenes came up, all too infrequently for their taste.

The story is too trite and there's nothing really new here. Well, except for the animation, which is brilliant, and the fight scenes, which are choreographed much like the Hong Kong kung fu movies I used to watch in the '60's, complete with slow-motion scene captures as the foot (or hoof or claw, in this instance) hit the jaw with exploding action.

The art is incredibly done in Kung Fu Panda. The initial dream sequence where our panda is the hero is wonderfully drawn with explosions of color. I just wish the story was up to the art direction.

This movie failed to impress. I would even say Kung Phooey to this kung fu.

Thumb's down.


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