Kung Fu Panda (2008, Mark Osborne & John Stevenson)

Kung-fu and pandas, are two elements of China that compliment each other whenever they are placed together. Maybe its the illusive charm of the black and white creatures, or the creative nature of those performing their exquisite art, that allow this blend to occur so naturally that they can be described quite simply as ‘organic’. It is a blend that has been done many times before, but perhaps not in the same way as Dreamwork’s animated feature ‘Kung Fu Panda’ – a film that although colourful and fun natured, assigns itself heavily within the culture it so brilliantly pays homage too. Like ‘Shrek’ before it, Dreamwork’s animators have balanced the comedic element of the films easy to understand plot in a manner that young children can still be reminded of the moral message that is laid underneath. Where ‘Shrek’ dealt with the issue of beauty in the eye of the beholder ‘Kung Fu Panda’ lays bare the message, that whatever you want to achieve you can with only determination and passion needed to do so. A worthwhile message that perfectly befits the audience,  that the film is set to attract.

Po (Jack Black) is a dreaming young panda who helps within his fathers noodle bar. Inspired by the ‘Furious 5’ – China’s most acclaimed martial artists; Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Crane (David Cross), Mantis (Seth Rogen) Viper (Lucy Liu) and Monkey (Jackie Chan) – he spends the majority of his time away from chores and in the imagination of his heroes. With the dragon warrior destined to be chosen, the young panda seeks an encounter with his idols in hopes of leaving his mundane existence. When he is chosen to be the mythical saviour of the country, he soon finds himself above his head with responsibility. Feeling un-liked by his new comrades, and struggling to adapt to his new found life, the young panda seeks a truth to his own existence. A truth only accessible by looking deep into himself, Po begins to understand his place in the worlds balance. With China’s most dangerous adversary, the snow leopard Tai Lung (Ian McShane) escaping from prison, Po must learn quick of what he is destined to achieve. If he does not, the whole of China could be lost to the aggressive nature of the escapist criminal.

Full of vivid colours and high octane action sequences befitting a martial-arts experience, Kung Fu Panda is brilliantly animated throughout. Altering between fully rendered computer generated  sequences and 2D segments arranged in the style of asian anime, the film pays perfect homage to the craft and productions that have so obviously influenced the films creative decisions.

Kung Fu Panda in places strives too hard to find the funny point of some lesser moments, a fault that is felt for all the wrong reasons. In truth, the film is just not as comedic as ‘Shrek’ yet capitalising on the success of that franchise, the studio seems eager to milk jokes for all their worth. A disappointing aspect for everything that the film does right.

Brilliantly composed of score and voice overs, the sound of the film reaches the lofty heights one expects from high calibre animation. Each character performs their role with such a personality that they all come across different. Holding major stars in small roles, the film manages to pull a lot from within its talent. Dustin Hoffman – as the Furious 5’s mentor Shifu- stands out against a crowded talent, with his vast experience brought to the forefront of the films narrative point.

Placed alongside an authentic feeling score, the film conveys its storyline rather brilliantly. A franchise starter with enough legs to fully grow, ‘Kung Fu Panda’ is a fun and fast paced action-animation that will leave children and adults breathless in places.

Plot – 3

Acting – 4

Direction – 4

Special Effects – 4

Retrospect – 3

Overall – 3. 5 out of 5