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Overall Rating
3.78

Awesome: 26.09%
Worth A Look44.93%
Average: 10.14%
Pretty Bad: 18.84%
Total Crap: 0%

7 reviews, 27 user ratings


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Kung Fu Panda
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by Rob Gonsalves

"The cast makes it."
4 stars

Jack Black is the premier enthusiast in American comedy. Whatever it is — heavy metal, lucha libre wrestling, music trivia, remaking movies on a cheap camcorder — he throws his considerable bulk into it, unbowed by reality or even physics.

In Kung Fu Panda, an amusing and gorgeously designed kiddie fable, Black is the voice of Po, a rotund panda who slaves over noodles in the family restaurant but yearns to be a kung-fu master. In his head, Po destroys thousands of enemies, blinding them with the glare of his “awesomeness.” Jack Black has never been one to skimp on the elaborateness of his fantasies — part of the joke of Tenacious D was that Black and Kyle Gass were playing dinky acoustic sets in bars, but in Black’s mind their thunder was drowning out Thor himself. Po is the perfect match for Black’s eager, bottomless devotion to all things bad-ass.

Adults might find Kung Fu Panda a bit on the thin side. It’s lightweight, to be sure, and hammers on its believe-in-yourself theme a tad too much. Without Jack Black’s optimism, the movie probably wouldn’t work. Po is somehow chosen as the Dragon Warrior, the legendary defender of the peaceful against the forces of evil and rage. He doesn’t really know much about kung fu aside from the occasional glimpse of his heroes, the Furious Five — Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Viper (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross), Monkey (Jackie Chan), and Mantis (Seth Rogen). Their master, the diminutive Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), can’t believe he’s stuck training this unpromising lump of panda flab. And there isn’t much time to prepare Po for battle, because Shifu’s old student-turned-nemesis Tai Lung (Ian McShane), a snow leopard driven by fury and resentment, has escaped from prison and is headed for Shifu’s Jade Temple.

Sometimes when I see an animated film like this, with a cast of veterans and hipsters, I wonder what kind of live-action movie could possibly support the same cast. David Cross alongside Angelina Jolie? Jack Black trading lines with Dustin Hoffman? In truth, the Furious Five get disappointingly scant screen time and a paucity of dialogue — I think Jackie Chan has a handful of lines (the idea of casting him as a voice in a kiddie kung-fu flick is more entertaining than what he actually does; he can’t do with his voice what he can with his body and expressions). There are two exceptional action sequences, both having to do with Tai Lung — his escape from captivity, and a brawl between him and the Furious Five on a suspension bridge. The core of the movie, though, is the relationship between two self-doubters, Po and Shifu, and Hoffman, muttering balefully to himself, delivers the gravitas of a master while hitting each laugh with an old pro’s precision.

Everything comes together at the finale, when Po, having learned that his technique is based on his appetite, faces off against Tai Lung, who actually seems to have a point when he growls that he was groomed to become the Dragon Warrior his whole life and was devastated to learn it wasn’t his destiny. Ian McShane brings an authentic darkness to Tai Lung — the disappointment, the pride that has flipped so easily into spiteful rage. McShane’s work on Deadwood was sometimes called Shakespearean, and here, in a summer action farce for kids, he invests what could’ve been a plastic Happy Meal toy with Swearengen-esque perversity. Up against him is Jack Black, the baby-demon rock parodist who once sang about the importance of fucking one’s woman gently. (In another song, he promised “With karate I’ll kick your ass,” which deserves to be this movie’s remixed theme song on a YouTube mash-up.)

I’m sure all of this will go over kids’ heads, but I wonder if they’ll look back years from now and marvel at how truly weird the casting of their favorite animated films really was.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=17245&reviewer=416
originally posted: 06/10/08 14:28:16
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell cool animated flick 4 stars
5/20/16 Jason good animated movie for everyone! 5 stars
10/19/11 Magic The very first movie Dreamworks made that does not outright suck. 4 stars
8/23/11 Annie G Much better than expected; I would even watch this repeatedly. 4 stars
6/19/11 Jennifer B. my kids loved it. It was a cool movie. 5 stars
6/15/11 Faraz an ok movie. No where near the hype. 3 stars
12/22/10 Dr.Lao Typical non-Shreck dreamworks: lots of screaming and falling down, no wit 3 stars
8/22/09 Zach A lot of humor. And some very nice kung fu action! 5 stars
12/07/08 mike freakin hilarious. non stop laughs. 5 stars
11/10/08 Samantha Pruitt great for both kids and adults, there are some pretty funny stuff in it! 5 stars
10/22/08 Shaun Wallner Hilarious Movie! 4 stars
7/19/08 Susan Lee can be fun at times but was expecting much better 3 stars
7/14/08 Private Acceptable but overrated. 3 stars
7/10/08 L. Slusarczyk A cute film for kids of all ages, but dont count on busting a gut. 4 stars
7/08/08 mary m This was cute - not great, but cute. 3 stars
6/24/08 katsat Very disappointing. Overrated, simplistic, boring. Eye candy but empty. Pixar-lite. 3 stars
6/22/08 Quigley Great animated film; full of action and humor. Essential summer viewing for everyone 5 stars
6/18/08 Jane B Adored this movie even more than my 5 year old! 5 stars
6/17/08 George Best animated movie of all time! PERIOD. 5 stars
6/17/08 Vivian Awesome!! LOVE IT~~ 5 stars
6/17/08 Brian One of my favorite movies of all times. My kids LOVED it as well as the wife and I 5 stars
6/16/08 michaelb1478 Awesome film, hilarious for kids and adults 5 stars
6/13/08 alouysious boring and unfunny 2 stars
6/12/08 Jayson Loved it. Definitely enjoyable for adults and kids alike. 4 stars
6/11/08 Dawn MCPike the cast is awesome!! we loved this movie and will buy it on dvd!!! 5 stars
6/10/08 Noexit Skip this review. Take a couple of kids, 3 and 5, grab a bag of popcorn and enjoy! 4 stars
6/07/08 PAUL SHORTT SUFFICIENTLY ENTERTAINING FOR KIDS AND MILDLY AMUSING FOR ADULTS 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  06-Jun-2008 (PG)
  DVD: 09-Nov-2008

UK
  04-Jul-2008 (PG)

Australia
  26-Jun-2008 (PG)
  DVD: 09-Nov-2008



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