Just forget the words and sing along

Friday, January 15, 2010

Animated Film Catch-Up: Kung Fu Panda

For those just joining us, every couple of years I rent every animated movie that I missed in the theatre that I had a mild interest in seeing, and watch them all in an insane lost weekend. I call this my "Animated Film Catch-Up".

OK, so next up on my list of animated films I was mildly interested in was one that I became increasingly curious about, and soon got kind of sad that I missed it in the theatre.

Kung Fu Panda

Animation Studio and Best Known Franchise: DreamWorks Animation; Shrek and Madagascar.

Directed by Mark Osborne and John Stevenson

Starring the voices of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Seth Rogan, Jackie Chan, Ian McShane, Randall Duk Kim and James Hong.

The Source of My Mild Interest: There are two studios that currently dominate computer animated films: Pixar and DreamWorks. It's no secret that I prefer Pixar. So, when I saw the first trailers for Kung Fu Panda, I rolled my eyes. "More of the same from DreamWorks. Talking animals voiced by celebrities making pop culture references." But then, some weird things started happening. The reviews were good. Even my fellow Pixar junkies were going, "Wow. This movie is good." Then, it went on to sweep the Annies, which is the animation industry's top awards. It completely shut out Pixar's Wall-E. With all this critical acclaim, I figured it was worth checking out. And hey! Co-director Mark Osborne directed the music video for "Weird Al" Yankovic's Jurassic Park.

Plot: A peaceful valley in China is protected by five kung fu masters known as the Furious Five. But then, horror. The warlord Tai Lung has escaped from prison, and is carving a swath of destruction to the valley. The only choice: find the legendary Dragon Warrior to do battle with Tai Lung. But do the kung fu masters choose one of the Furious Five to be the Dragon Warrior? No! They chose...Po, a lowly noodle chef...our titular panda. The race is on for Po to conquer his self-doubts, the Furious Five to conquer their doubts in Po, and to get ready for battle with Tai Lung.

What I Liked: The characters aren't just celebrities playing themselves. It seems like they're actually trying to create some characters...they're actually acting. Each of the Furious Five has their own character traits to make them unique. There's some amazing action sequences...a spectacular score...and the animation is above average for DreamWorks.

What I Didn't Like: The plot is still formulaic, and yeah, the celebrities try, but they do get lazy in some scenes and it becomes celebrities playing themselves.

Final Verdict: This is NOT talking animals making pop culture references...this is actually a highly entertaining action film with a comedic bent. I recommend it.

3.5 Nibs

Alright, it's getting late. Off to bed...we'll pick this up in the morning.

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