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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

*** Kung Fu Panda. Animated comedy.

Directed by: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson.
Starring: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu

I watched this on the plane on the way to the States this summer.

Jack Black is the voice of Po, a panda who works in his father's noodle restaurant while dreaming of being a kung fu master. By a series of misadventures, he ends up in the arena where Master Oogway is choosing the Dragon Warrior from among the five trained by Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), and to everyone's shock, not least his own, Po is the chosen one.

Unfortunately, the Dragon Warrior is the only hope to defeat the evil snow leopard warrior Tai Lung, and Po isn't remotely capable. But despite resistance from the five experts, and even from Master Shifu himself, Po proves himself and I'm sure it's not a spoiler to say he saves the day.

It's a cute movie, but I'm finding it hard to understand all the raves. It's a story we've all seen before--the underdog saving the day--and the "wonderful fight scenes"?? Um--it's animated. Maybe whoever it is who designs what the CG artists produce did a nice job figuring out who should do what and how. I really didn't notice.

The message is a little heavy-handed, which is par for a kids' movie: believe in yourself, and just because you're fat doesn't mean you're not a hero.

It's an all-star cast, but the only ones who made an impression were Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman. All the rest had very small parts. The Furious Five (played by Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, and David Cross) were barely distinguishable from each other--if they hadn't all been different animals, there would have been no difference between them. By which I mean there was no character development for them at all.

Kung Fu Panda also suffers from the usual cute-itis--things added to the movie whether they make sense or not just because it's cute. Like Po's father being a goose. Why a panda would have geese for parents isn't really explained--it's just supposed to be funny, like bulls with udders.

My biggest problem with the movie, though, was the character of Po. I've seen this exact same character a dozen times at least, and it's really getting on my nerves. Not Jack Black--I like Jack Black: Shallow Hal, School of Rock, Nacho Libre, The Holiday... and he does almost always play an underdog, but not like this. I'm not exactly sure why I'm sick of it, but I think it's because the character is self-consciously heartwarming--it's pounded into the audience's head with a sledgehammer.

It is a very nice children's movie. It's just not one that goes beyond that. And that's fine.

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Hmmmm...you're the only one I know who wasn't too excited about this movie. Most of my friend enjoy it because it was cute. They love the panada and want to hugs it. So am guessing you might be right about the cute-sie stuff *grin*...
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