Kung Fu Panda

When I first heard of Kung Fu Panda many moons ago, I was ambivalent. On the one hand, I enjoy animated films, animals, and martial arts. On the other hand, I was unsure how Jack Black‘s style of over-the-top comedy would play well in that setting. I was pleasantly surprised by this solid offering from DreamWorks Animation. (For full disclosure, Jason P. Weber, the Character Effects Technical Director, is a buddy of mine.)

Kung Fu Panda is a retelling of the standard tale of the young man of humble origins who becomes the hero. Jack Black voiced the eponymous character in an understated way that develops sympathy for him from the audience without preventing some slapstick comic moments. Dustin Hoffman did a good job as Shifu, even though I find him an odd casting. The rest of the cast did an excellent job of not intruding on the film, even Seth Rogen who seems to be on fire in Hollywood these days.

Mark Osborne and John Stevenson captured the style of both their studio’s signature works and a classic martial arts film. (The log line could have been Shrek meets The Five Deadly Venoms.) Yong Duk Jhun brought amazingly vibrant colors to the film. The score by John Powell and Hans Zimmer was a Hollywood take on Chinese melodies a la Mulan. The animation was superb; I especially like the detail of the character’s pupils dilating and contracting in response to light.

I liked Kung Fu Panda as did my kids. But if you don’t like martial arts films, you might not enjoy it as much as it’s a new take on a classic plot and setting.


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