Po (voiced by Jack Black), a clumsy panda and the son of a noodle vendor, dreams of becoming a great kung fu fighter and meeting “The
Ferocious Furious Five”. This team of kung fu masters is comprised of Tigress (voiced by Angelina Jolie), Monkey (voiced by Jackie Chan), Mantis (voiced by Seth Rogen), Viper (voiced by Lucy Liu), Crane (voiced by David Cross) and is led by their master, Shifu (voiced by Dustin Hoffman). Ultimately, his dream is realized when, by default, he is designated the “Dragon Warrior” in a competition over the more skilled competitors in the field. And so he sets out on an adventure of self discovery that leads him to face off against the evil snow leopard Tai Lung (voiced by Ian McShane).
As you are aware, Kung Fu Panda is an animated film which boasts some of the best animation I’ve seen to date. The lighting glimmered as the sun moved across the day. I could almost feel the textures on my fingers. There are hysterical stop motion sequences that shamelessly draw the attention of the audience right into the story. Dan Wagner, the head of character animation, earned every penny he was paid as the head character animator because the characters literally sparkled with life. My one exception would be that Tigress often comes off flat. All in all, my eyes were remarkably satisfied by the exceptionally beautiful animation.
The dialogue was equally pleasurable. While there are a few one line jokes in Kung Fu Panda that come across my taste buds as sour apples, most of the script is bright and appealing. Silly, memorable, and entertaining verbal parlays will make even the most serious in the audience chuckle out loud. The plot takes every opportunity to sprinkle delightful spices of sweetness and sincerity. The characters were a bit shallow but considering the age of the target audience, the slightly less complex character development is appropriate. Don’t be afraid though, the shoal nature of the plot doesn’t detract for adults. It is a nourishing respite from any case of the doldrums and hum-bugs.
I was also utterly surprised by the quality of the voice acting in this feature. While none of the scenes are emotionally challenging, they are comedically challenging. Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Dustin Hoffman and Ian McShane each give such high-octane energy to their characters, it made the entire movie a delightful story, easy to get lost in, and sure to rise your serotonin and dopamine levels.
I should point out that I find it important to watch and listen to children as they watch a movie targeted for them – I’m not young enough to truly judge how good it is for a little one. The youngsters responded in awe because Kung Fu Panda combines two things kids love, adorable animals and high jumping, fist flying, round house kicking martial arts. As I scanned the audience, I saw seas of little smiling faces leaning forward, completely enraptured but more surprising was the look on the bigger faces. Even the unaccompanied grown-ups looked like they wanted to cuddle the characters but hesitate out of fear of their martial arts skills.
I think the most sociologically exposing movies a society creates are ones made for kids. They always show the basest values of a society. The message conveyed in Kung Fu Panda is one I love; “You’re good enough.” Couple that with two butt kicking girls, Tigress and Viper, who don’t show their boobs or have ridiculously narrow waists and are treated just as equals to their male counterparts, I am so happy about what this movie says about us. I would suggest this movie only for those who enjoy lovely visuals punctuated with laughter (which I suspect is roughly 90% of the population).