Monday, June 9, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

When I saw the first preview for Kung Fu Panda (2008) I about laughed my a double money sign off. It was awesome. It showed the various forms of Kung Fu:Tiger, Monkey, Viper, Mantis, and...Panda? As it showed the first it showed animals of the mentioned names performing high-speed, intricate moves except Panda...who was sitting in a corner eating cookies. I was hooked. I love animation, I love kung-fu cheese movies, and combining the 2? I am so there!

Now, I know I am not the target audience for these...I am a thirty-something, not a kid. But money is as good as theirs, right? So off to the theatre we went.

The opening sequence was a bit disappointing...I was expecting some fun animation, not this sharp-angled 2 dimensional impressionist crap. I mean, I figured it for a flashback...but still, not what I wanted. A disappointed frown creasing my face, I plunged my hand deep into the popcorn just in time to figure was a dream sequence. And after a minute or two it plunged into the animation we had seen in the previews...smooth, fun, easy on the eyes.

Po (Jack Black) is a heavy-set panda who works in a noodle shop with his dad...a gander. Yes, the obvious joke comes into play later when his dad tells him, "Po, there is something I should have told you a long time ago" at a moment of self-doubt in which Po has just said something along the lines of, "Sometimes I wonder if I am really your son". Fortunately, the "Your adopted" setup is not ended with that predictable gag and the ensuing joke is at the heart of the movie.

Po knows everything about Kung Fu having studied the history of lieu of actually performing any of it. He is so out of shape that when his heroes, the Furious Five, are to give a demonstration and the Dragon Warrior is to be chosen, he takes so long climbing the stairs that he is shut out. Numerous comedic attempts to enter the arena follow.

Naturally, through a series of flukes he is "accidentally" chosen the Dragon Warrior. Furious that none of his prize students were selected, Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) attempts to drive Po to quit instead of teaching him. Po is too awestruck (and stupid, truth be told) to quit. Finally Shifu is convinced his need to control is an illusion and he decides to figure out how to train Po to be the Dragon Warrior.

In the training sequence that ensues there are numerous jokes. It actually managed something shocking. As a general rule, I HATE the training sequences in all the martial arts/boxing type movies. Yes, I recognize the iconic moment when Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) masters the steps in Philadelphia or when Jean Claude Van Damme does the splits or when Ralph Macchio does the Crane on the log over the ocean...doesn't mean I enjoy the sequences to get to that point. Kung Fu Panda is an exception to that rule. Very enjoyable (and unique) training...

And of course the epic final battle with the villainous (?) Snow Leopard Tai Lung (Ian McShane) is quite enjoyable. As these movies must, it has a happy ending.

Kung Fu Panda is not going to dazzle you with brilliant dialogue or a deep, engaging story-line. It is a basic, ABC story that is quite predictable. It is also very entertaining. The characters are likable, the story engaging even if you have seen it before dozens of times, which you probably have. That is okay. This movie is meant to entertain and just plain be fun...and it does that very, very well.

The Goose loved the way I walked out smiling. This is a movie that, once the initial dream sequence ended, fulfilled every expectation I had and entertained me beginning to end, providing numerous laughs and very satisfying action scenes.

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