Can you handle the crazy feet? ... Kung Fu Panda

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    Can you handle the crazy feet? ... Kung Fu Panda
    Written by Jared Mobarak
    Thursday, 05 June 2008

    Pixar is where it is at for me animation-wise in Hollywood. Maybe that
    makes me a snob, but something about their films resonant on a level
    that the others can’t even begin to touch. Sure Shrek and Madagascar
    are funny, but besides the off-belly laugh, they are kind of shallow
    and hollow. With that said, I went to check out Dreamworks new foray
    into computer graphic cinema, Kung Fu Panda. Admittedly, I knew very
    little about this thing other than the fact that Jack Black and
    Angelina Jolie voiced characters. It could possibly be due to the fact
    that I don’t watch much tv, but I’ve seen sparse promotion at best
    until walking into the theatre and seeing a giant 3D panda in the
    lobby. On the whole, the film plays out much like you’d want a family/
    kid friendly picture to. We are given examples of friendship, belief
    in oneself, and humility—all life lessons we hope to inspire our youth
    with. With a good backbone such as that, along with some humorous bits
    and stunning action choreography, this panda definitely packs a punch
    doing his job: entertaining the audience right until the final frame.

    Credit the producers for compiling a top-notch roster of vocal talent
    to enhance the somewhat ho-hum script. These types of movies are never
    very original, so it takes a bit of extra panache to really draw me
    in. Black is actually quite good in the role and Po the panda plays
    right into his schtick. When arriving at the hall of warriors, he goes
    to every artifact and does his thing, screaming his excitement at all
    the cool stuff like it’s his JB character from Tenacious D eying Jimi
    Hendrix’s first guitar. The Kung Fu arm mannerisms even recall his air
    guitar/rock n’ roll motions. Black is somewhat restrained and his
    manic energy is reigned in to be effective on the comedic and dramatic
    levels. This guy is, after all, our entrance into the story and the
    character we are supposed to relate to. An outcast and an original, we
    all can see a bit of ourselves, always dreaming but never taking the
    leap to achieve those goals. We watch his evolution and start to
    believe that it could happen to us too.

    It is a fine line for the supporting roles. A Panda with historical
    knowledge of the ancient art yet without any actual experience has
    been proclaimed the savior of the valley against a monster of a foe.
    He is truly the ugly duckling and all those around him must straddle
    the division of chiding him and the absurdity of the situation, but
    not be too mean—there are kids watching. In order to keep a good grasp
    on this tenuous situation, the filmmakers cast a group of affable
    people with the ability to work in serious moments, but never
    relinquish the humorous edge to their voice. Guys like David Cross,
    Seth Rogen, and Jackie Chan are perfect for the roles of the true
    warriors attempting to reconcile their preconceptions of this screw-up
    swooping in and taking their thunder. Moments like the acupuncture
    scene really show this to be true. Jolie is good as Tigress, another
    fighter and prize student, but the role ends up being pretty
    forgettable and by the books. She never really gets the range to go
    crazy. Neither does Dustin Hoffman as the master and teacher to them
    all, yet he is a still a success. My favorite supporter was the great
    Ian McShane as Tai Lung, the villain of the tale. No one has a better
    voice for nefarious deeds than this guy and he delivers continuously.

    As far as the story goes, it is a nice tale to teach the kids about
    faith and comradery. For us older folk, however, we are treated with
    some spectacular action/battle sequences to satisfy our want for more
    than just preaching. The chopstick fight between Hoffman and Black is
    fantastic, having comedy and tenacity with some nice artwork and fast
    paced movement. The battle on a rope bridge towards the end, as well
    as the final confrontation, is also highly enjoyable. Credit the
    entertainment to the acting and a gimmick that at first made me
    cringe. Throughout the film we are treated with slow-motion insertions
    during the action. A nod to old Kung Fu films and the satirical spoofs
    created as a result, I was thinking I’d grow tired of the maneuver
    very fast. Fortunately, as the movie continues on, the moments become
    sprinkled in with perfect timing. The escape from Rhino prison
    wouldn’t have been half as fun without the speed changes in the action
    and the slow-mo facial expressions of those getting thrown around.
    Even towards the end, the filmmakers began to use it as an original
    comedic device. Capturing Po’s reaction to a charging Tai Lung is
    absolutely priceless.

    Kung Fu Panda is by no means a masterpiece, but for a cartoon that
    really flew under my radar, I had a lot of fun taking part in the
    experience. Right from the beginning, with a stylized 2D rendered
    sequence as an introduction, I saw that this wouldn’t be quite the run-
    of-the-mill work I was anticipating. Always staying fresh and funny I
    can fully endorse anyone wanting to check it out as a nice appetizer
    to what could be a fantastic main course in Pixar’s Wall-E come this

    Kung Fu Panda 7/10 - Movie Reviews, Book Reviews, and
    , Jun 6, 2008
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