Kung Fu Panda: Po the Panda Finds His Inner Warrior
In the Valley of Peace, Po the Panda (Jack Black) finds himself chosen as the Dragon Warrior despite the fact that he is obese and a complete novice at martial arts. Despite fits and starts, he grows into the role. This film, from Dreamworks, establishes a franchise that is sure to outlive us all.
"Kung Fu Panda" (2008), directed by Mark Osborne and John Stevenson, is the animated story about a lazy, irreverent slacker panda, named Po, who is the biggest fan of Kung Fu around. However, he works every day in his family's noodle shop and can only dream of being a grand martial arts master. Unexpectedly chosen to fulfill an ancient prophecy, Po's dreams become reality when he joins the world of Kung Fu and studies alongside his idols, the legendary Furious Five -- Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Crane (David Cross), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Monkey (Jackie Chan). They are led by a guru, Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman, making a rare foray into animation).
One day, the evil snow leopard, Tai Lung (Ian McShane), heads their way, and it is up to Po to defend everyone from the oncoming threat. Can he turn his dreams of becoming a Kung Fu master into reality? Po puts his heart - and his girth - into the task, and the unlikely hero ultimately finds that his greatest weaknesses turn out to be his greatest strengths.
Directed by Mark Osborne and John Stevenson, this is a delightful escapade. It is full of wisdom for kids who are searching to find themselves, and there are knowing asides to play to sophisticated audiences.
As usual in these films, everyone speaks as if they were brought in off the streets of LA, with up-to-date slang and nothing authentic or archaic about the speech patterns. That is as it should be, this is for modern children and isn't meant to be historical or anything like that.
As usual with animation films, a lot more effort went into detail than the average viewer ever would realize. The individual animal characters all exhibit unique fighting styles that are actual martial arts styles modelled after those types of animals. Po himself employs the "bear" style of Kung Fu fighting. Wisely, the creators played it straight and did not make fun of martial arts film. The film took four years to make, and the effort pays off on the screen. It was nominated for an Oscar for best animated feature film. The Chinese government, in fact, was so impressed by the attention to detail and extensive nods to their culture that it engaged in serious questioning as to why their own animators had never produced similar works.
An awful lot of talent went into this film's production. But it is meant to be enjoyable, not educational, though that part does not hurt. Kids of all ages should love this, and the sequel is almost as good.
Watch the trailer below!