Kung Fu Panda

The headline refers to the movie, of course, which I took the kids to see today. It was great. No, I mean it—it was great.

(No spoilers.)

Several things contributed to it’s greatness. First, not knowing (until the credits roll) who any of actors doing the voices are, except of course for Jack Black. I think sometimes on animated movies I get distracted by actually knowing who the actors are and then listening for them, rather than enjoying the movie.

For instance, the voice behind Tai Lung (the snow leopard villain) was really good—really well cast—and itchingly familiar. Turned out to be Ian McShane, who played Swearingen on "Deadwood" (possibly the best TV show of all time), and that was masterful. But had I known it was him beforehand, I would have been listening for "Deadwood" instead.

Jack Black, by the way, is also perfectly cast. But you probably already knew that.

Second, this movie doesn’t suffer from what a lot of animated movies these days (particularly Dreamworks ones) does: slapstick humor propped up by "modern" or meta-themed jokes. In other words, nothing is out of place here (plot-wise, humor-wise)—with one exception which I’ll get to—and comedy doesn’t rely on "outside the box" or "frame of reference" jokes.

(An example? How about Pinocchio wearing thong underwear in "Shrek 2"?)

Third, that "one exception": Po the Panda—as played by Black—is such an otaku of kung fu and the hero characters that he actually has action figures and posters of them (the "Furious Five") all over his room. Yes, this seems out of place in ancient (? or medieval?) China, but it’s what pulls this movie together; Po is the ultimate geeknerd, the comic book-type obsessive who already knows (cerebrally, anyway) all about the Five and kung fu and the history of the epic battles of good and evil just like the "modern" geeknerds on the internet and in comic book shops today. It works because it resonates, I suppose, and if you’ve actually read this far then it’s very likely you know exactly what I mean and it resonates with you too.

Fourth, it’s great fun with elaborate, enjoyable kung fu fight scenes. Ah, the wonders of animation.

It’s well worth seeing. Thumbs up.


One Reply to “Kung Fu Panda”

  1. I agree, it was awesome! I think if they made a prequel called "The Furious Five" and a sequel called "The Dragon Warrior" and made them PG-13 with a ton of fighting (in the style they used in Kung Fu Panda), it would be the greatest thing ever! OK so that might seem like a weird thought, but I like Kung Fu movies and I seriously think that this was the best one ever. Have more fight scenes and you’ve got yourself an epic!

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