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His Technique Is Strong — Kung-Fu Panda

January 2, 2009

KUNG-FU PANDA (2008)
d. Mark Osborne & James Stevenson

Another top-notch animated feature, but with a very engaging storyline, Kung-Fu Panda delights with its depiction of the least likeliest of heroes in the form of a fat panda, Po.

Po (Jack Black) starts off as the son of a noodle-shop owner (James Hong), dreaming of glory and adventures with the Furious Five, a team of kung-fu masters made up of Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Crane (David Cross) and Viper (Lucy Liu) and led by their master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and his master, Oogway (Randall Duk Kim).

With the threat of the evil Tai Lung (Ian McShane) escaping prison and making his way back to the valley to retrieve a sacred scroll that promises unlimited power, Oogway holds a celebration to choose the fabled Dragon Warrior who will protect and save the valley from Tai Lung. Guess who gets picked.

Po, burdened with a new responsibility, perseveres to train to become the Dragon Warrior in spite of everyone else’s misgivings and judgements. What we are treated to are some of the best animated and most hilarious training sequences committed to film. Honestly, these bits were the funniest parts of the film.

The training sequences, the bridge fight and the final confrontation between Po and Tai Lung stand out as the most amazingly choreographed fight sequences in animation that I have seen in a long time. Taking some cues from The Matrix, the animators slow down the action to emphasize hits while milking the laughs all the while. Its quite a balancing act that is successful every time.

The only misgiving I had was that the Furious Five voices did not bear easy recognition. I had no idea of all the big names attached to the characters until the end credits. Really, the only voices I recognized were Jack Black, James Hong and Dustin Hoffman. Other than that, I have no other complaints against the film.

Kung-Fu Panda is laugh-out loud funny and at the right moments very touching. Especially when Po comes into his own and realizes his own worth and power.

Another cool thing about this movie is how they allow Po to have total geekgasms when he meets the Furious Five and enters the hall of memorabilia. It’s a great way to allow us to empathize with Po, because who doesn’t act that way around their heroes?

*** stars.

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