July 30, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

Our Rating: 4
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Yahoo Movies Critics: B
Yahoo Movies Users: B+

Featuring the voices of: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Jakie Chan.
Directors: John Wayne Stevenson, Mark Randolph Osborne.

Jack Black is back, baby! Woohoo!
One of my favourite actors of all time (sorry, random fact, I guess), Messr. Black voices the animated panda, Po. Bumbling, overweight and often clumsy, Po still dreams of become a Kung Fu warrior (like his idols, the Furious Five).
Po's father, however, has different plans for him; Mr.Ping (daddy goose), you see, owns a flourishing noodle restaurant which, he hopes, Po will take over some day. For that to happen, Mr.Ping instructs Po in the art of noodle-making but constantly refrains from letting Po know the "secret ingredient".
Kung Fu Grand Master Ogway, meanwhile, gets a premonition that the dreaded Kung Fu Warrior Tai Lung will escape prison and threaten the Valley of Peace once more. To counter this, he announces that he will soon choose the new Dragon Warrior, the one fighter who will stop Tai Lung once and for all.
I won't spoil the fun and tell you how this happened, but what happens is that Po inadvertently gets chosen as the Dragon Warrior (like you didn't already know/guess).
What follows is an intensely hilarious tale of a coming-of-age blundering panda. Yes, there are foes-turned-friends, there are caricature villains, there's the inevitable disapproving-but-proud father track, but it's all been presented in one of the best ways ever.
But the most amazing thing about Kung Fu Panda is its hidden message (which only becomes clear towards the climax of the film): belief.
I won't expand on that, go watch the movie, but lemme tell you this: it's the stuff legends are made out of. The message might be lost on kids and adults alike, specially since it's being depicted in an animated film, but I'll go so far as to say this is the second best moral-driven, comedic animation flick ever (the first being The Lion King, of course).
The animation rocks. It's been superbly done by DreamWorks who, of course, prove time and again why they're one up on Disney and Pixar. The expressions of all the characters are nearly life-like, specially in the close-ups, the one place where you'd most expect the life-likeliness to fail.
As the voice of Po, Jack Black is phenomenal. I can just about imagine him in the studio, coffee cup in hand, going crazy with Po. This film is his stage to prove to the world, again, just WHY he was born. He rocks. I'm sorry if I'm gushing but I can't help it. I am a maniacal Jack Black fan and extremely proud of it.
Angelina Jolie's inclusion in the cast was much hyped but, frankly, she doesn't live up to it. Don't get me wrong, as the voice of Tigress, she's awesome-but there's nothing of the Angelina Jolie stamp in her this time, no extra zing like there usually is. At the end of the film, I realized that this was a role any female could've done, which is weird since I walk out of most Angelina Jolie films either drooling/foaming at the mouth or talking so loudly about her that my friends usually stand a few hundred feet apart pretending not to know me.
Dustin Hoffman as Master Shifu is just perfect. I seriously cannot imagine any other actor whose voice would've suited the character more. Maybe, just maybe, Marlon Brando in his Godfather days but, sadly, this film is a few decades too late for that.
Jackie Chan's role, too, was much talked about. But as Monkey, he's there for hardly a few scenes (where he's required to talk. Otherwise, he's there in the entire film, like an animated extra). He's simply wasted but I guess including him was the producers' way to lure the audience (specially after the success of The Forbidden Kingdom).
Lucy Liu as Viper rocks. Again, it's a role that any other lady could've done, but Lucy Lui's good, no doubt about it. I'll give credit where it's due. :D
A very, very special mention to Randall Duk Kim, the man who voices the tortoise, Grand Master Ogway. He's TOO GOOD. He's hilarious and he's old and restrained and he's convincing and he's annoying all at the same time. Phew! Imagine one guy doing all of that in one sentence! That's Master Ogway/Duk Kim for you :D
I go with a 4/5 for Kung Fu Panda (only for the third time in my history-after The Shawshank Redemption and, more recently, The Dark Knight). If you walk out of this film without a smile on your face, you're out of this world....and I don't mean that in a good way.

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