‘Kung Fu Panda’ movie review: family fun from DreamWorks Animation

A lazy Panda voiced by Jack Black must become a kung fu master in Mark Osborne and John Stevenson’s Kung Fu Panda, the latest in a long line of good-but-not-quite-great CGI efforts from DreamWorks Animation. 

Story – ripped straight from old Shaw Bros. kung fu classics – is a lot of fun but doesn’t hold any surprises. 

Characters are sufficiently cute but often seem to conflict with the martial arts at the heart of the story; convincing me of a Panda who becomes a kung fu master is the least of your problems when your Furious Five includes a crane, a snake, and a praying mantis, who don’t even seem to have the appropriate weight or anatomy to be doing what they’re doing.

Po the Panda (Jack Black) has long dreamed of becoming a kung fu master, but long suffers in his father’s noodle shop, though he can serve up a mean bowl of noodles. 

On the day that Oogway (a tortoise voiced by Randall Duk Kim) chooses the next ‘Dragon Master’, Po accidently places himself in front of Oogway’s finger; of course, there are no accidents, according to Oogway. 

Po is to become the next Dragon Master, much to the chagrin of Shifu (I don’t know what kind of animal this is – some smallish rodent – but Dustin Hoffman voices him well), who must train Po, and the Furious Five, a tiger, monkey, snake, mantis, and crane voiced by, respectively, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, and David Cross.

Of course, there’s also a villain (another tiger voiced by Ian McShane) who escapes from a heavily guarded Rhino prison and seeks to seize the Dragon Scroll and destroy Po’s village, but this storyline was rather perfunctory; I was happy with the 36th Chamber of Shaolin-like training of Po the Panda.

I liked the movie but do have one complaint: martial arts doesn’t mix with these cartoon characters, who don’t seem to inflict or feel pain unless the story requires it, bouncing down mountains and getting right back up yet becoming paralyzed with a touch. 

Yeah, that’s right, I’m complaining about physics and realism in this animated kid’s film. If they ever said Yosemite Sam was a master gunslinger, I’d be complaining about that, too.


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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