Directors: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson
Cast: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan
Watch Kung Fu Panda online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / TalkTalk TV / Amazon Instant Video / Google Play
There’s something about animated films that lets them get away with ignoring science. Newton’s third law of motion, opposable thumbs, all of them pale in comparison to the biggest lie of all: reproduction. And so with Dreamworks’ Kung Fu Panda, we are introduced to a duck who has given birth to a panda. Ever since Dumbo, adults have hoodwinked their offspring with such biological fallacies. First comes love, then comes platonic relationships, then comes a stork with a baby elephant.
Nevertheless, Po the panda (Black) is here to stay. He doesn’t have wings or a beak, and he definitely doesn’t share his pater’s passion for noodles. What does he adore? “I love kung fuuuuuuuuuuu!” he shouts, tearing through the paper walls with his tenacious vocal talent. You can call the character what you like, but he’s clearly been written for Jack Black. In the freedom of the CGI realm, that’s a very good thing.
Po’s valley (The Valley of Peace) lives in the shadow of the Jade Palace, home to the legendary fighters of legend, the Furious Five – Viper, Crane, Tigress, Monkey and Mantis if you must know. At the head of the Five is Master Shifu (Hoffman), a red panda. These warriors bow to a bodacious, laidback turtle of the Nemo variety, Oogway. But Oogway senses evil approaching. Evil in the form of Shifu’s former pupil, snow leopard Tai Lung. He’s voiced by Lovejoy (Ian McShane). When Lovejoy escapes from a heavily guarded fortress, Oogway selects the one who will become the mythical Dragon Warrior and save the day. No guesses who gets picked by accident.
Cue a series of calamitous montages, most notably an inspired sequence involving chopsticks and dumplings. Wisdom is shared, blows are traded and bellies are fed, as Po learns the sacred art of kung fu. The fights fly past every few minutes, with the style knob turned firmly up to 11. There may be no blood, but the choreography is surprisingly intricate; every punch is as visually arresting as a computer-generated panda could be. Which apparently is quite a bit.
There’s no real depth to the result, but this is Kung Fu Panda’s beauty. It doesn’t spend time trying to pander (ahem) to adult humour or make post-modern film references – it just tells a basic story and does it well. It’s fun to boot, as well as funny; at times, you’ll laugh out loud at the entertaining cast, especially Hoffman. Cute and cuddly, this un-lethal furball of a film is perfect for kids of all sizes. But be careful, you may go blind from over-exposure to pure awesomeness.
Kung Fu Panda is available on Netflix UK, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription.
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