topfivefilms.com Tuesday 18th January 2022
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Kung Fu Panda (PG)
Directed by: Mark Osborne and John Stevenson
Reviewed by: Paul Fonz

It seems like a long time since I last reviewed an animated film, but in the middle of the summer blockbuster season, and only a week before the release of Pixar's latest film (WALL·E), DreamWorks have unveiled their latest attempt in the form of an homage to kung fu films and martial arts legend.

For an animated character, Tai Lung is pretty scary
For an animated character, Tai Lung is pretty scary

Jack Black (High Fidelity, Be Kind Rewind) voices the main character, a lazy, fat panda who works with his father in a noodle shop. Although their business is going from strength to strength in ancient China, Po finds his every waking thought is occupied with mastering the art of Kung Fu. He isn't the most graceful of characters, and indeed he has no training in the martial art at all, and yet he dreams of being the one to win the legendary Dragon Scroll and become the ultimate warrior.

Just down the road, the Furious Five (voiced by Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogan and David Cross) share many of the same dreams, but they stand a much more realistic chance, because they have been trained by Shifu, a great Kung Fu master whose only failing so far has been to let one of his students turn evil. This student, Tai Lung, was overcome years ago by the Shifu and his master and is now in a prison guarded by a thousand soldiers.

Po gets his chance to fulfil his dream, however, when he accidentally interrupts the Dragon Scroll ceremony and is chosen by the grand master as the great Dragon Warrior, giving him just a few days to train to become the greatest warrior in the world, in time to overcome Tai Lung, who coincidentally has just managed to escape from prison. It's all very chaos theory.

The plot isn't exactly outstanding, but it is about as sophisticated as you can expect from a children's film, and it does pay homage to countless martial arts premises, as well as giving a nice nod to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles along the way.

Jack Black's trademark humour is notable by its absence, as he serves merely as a voice for the hero and sticks purely to the script, which is probably no bad thing. The graphics look great, although with the high quality of animated films recently it is getting very hard to impress the audience with looks alone.

Probably the biggest praise I can give this film is that it doesn't seem like a cynical cash-in on the school holidays as some of DreamWorks productions do, and the overall package is a pretty enjoyable one for kids and adults alike. I would certainly rather watch this than Madagascar for example, but Kung Fu Panda stops well short of reaching the heights of Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo or The Incredibles.

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Length: 92 minutes
Certificate: PG
Official Site: http://www.kungfupanda.com/
IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0441773/
Release Date: 4th July 2008

Top Five Rating: 70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0% (70.0%)
User Rating: 0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0%0.0% (0.0%)

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