Sunday, June 29, 2008

KUNG FU PANDA - earnest but unmemorable

We are noodle folk. Broth runs through our veins.KUNG FU PANDA is an amiable CGI animated movie for kids. Jack Black plays a kind-hearted panda called Po, the ultimate Kung Fu fan-boy. To everyone's surprise, Master Oogway names Po as the Dragon Warrior - the only fighter who can beat the evil tiger Tai Lung and bring peace to the valley. At first, all of the other Kung Fu masters mock the fat panda, but Po's tenacity wins them round. He developes his own style of Bear Kung Fu that uses his big belly as an asset and fulfills his destiny. The moral of the story is that even the most unlikely person can be a hero if they only believe in themselves.

Like Po, KUNG FU PANDA has a kind heart and good intentions. All of the characters have names that correspond to their meanings in Mandarin and great attention has been paid to the choreography of the martial art scenes. They reference great cinema battles, but never cross the line into pastiche. There are moments of great humour - not least a chop stick fight over a dumpling between Po and Shifu. Jack Black does a great job and he has great chemistry with Dustin Hoffman as his master.

Having said that, KUNG FU PANDA isn't up there with the best of animation. It doesn't have the emotional depth, narrative complexity or visual style of a RATATOUILE or TOY STORY or MONSTERS INC. It feels rather thin. Aside from the relationship between Po and Shifu, the subsidiary characters - voiced by the likes of Angelina Jolie and Jackie Chan - are poorly developed. Basically this is a one-note story and it could've been 75 rather than 90 minutes long.

KUNG FU PANDA played Cannes 2008 and was released in June in Russia, South Korea, Ukraine, Estonia, the Philippines, Singapore, the USA, Egypt, Kuwait, Thailand, Indonesia, CHina, Mexico, Australia, Israel, New Zealand and the Hong. It opens on JUly 3rd in Iceland, Argentina, Germany, Hungary, Portugal, Austria, Brazil, Poland, Romania, Turkey and the UK. It opens later in July in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Venezuela, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Japan. It opens in Finland on August 1st; in Italy on August 29th and in Greece on September 3rd.


  1. still gotta see Kung Fu Panda... Jack Black is classic for sure; he'll be forever famous for his work in School of Rock

  2. Whatever who wrote that review- LIGHTEN UP!!!!

    As a LIFE LONG fan of Kung Fu theatre-
    I found ALOT to love about this spirit of this movie as an individual work, and also as a tounge in cheek tribute to the Shaw Brothers and classic Martial Arts films it lovingly parodies- ALL THE VOICES are great, though I feel the FURIOUS FIVE were a tad underdeveloped- they more than made up for this in SECRETS of THE FURIOUS FIVE - a companion animated short that explained how the Five became the Legends PO worships!
    Other than that- it's a great coming of age story with a great 'believe in yourself' moral-
    Hilarious cartoon Kung-Fu action and a heart as big as Po's Kung Fu Bellyflop.

    Sk-Dooosh, indeed.