Monday, January 05, 2009

Kung-Fu Panda: Grade C

Kung Fu Panda (2008)
Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Lucy Liu, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, Seth Rogan (voices); Directors Mark Osborne, David Stevenson .

This Dreamworks animation is a great story for kids and has enough humor to amuse the parents. Set in a remote valley in China a hundred years ago, the panda (Black) is chosen as the next martial arts Dragon Master, to save the valley kingdom from the Luciferous Tai Lung (McShane). Panda is a clueless overweight buffoon, expressed well and naturally by Black, a source of much of the movie’s humor. Hoffman is his exasperated kung-fu trainer. Meanwhile, a gang of five superheroes stand at the ready: Monkey, Viper, Tiger, Crane and Mantis. However, they are defeated by the bad guy, leaving only Panda to save the day. Guess how it ends?

The colors are very bright, and high contrast blocks of saturated color give the film an attractive comic book look. The choreography is a pastiche of Jackie Chan movies, Hero, Crouching Tiger, and any number of other martial arts films of recent years, along with a good dose of Wile E. Coyote gags. Animation is smooth but more like a Saturday morning cartoon than a subtly expressive Pixar character. Still, it surely will pass muster with the young ones, as will the hyperkinetic scenes that move the farcical, pseudo-serious story along.

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