Kung Fu Panda provides plenty of action, lots of laughs | VailDaily.com

Kung Fu Panda provides plenty of action, lots of laughs

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

I expected another mediocre computer-animated kids flick produced solely to sell a line of toys. What I got was a genuinely funny and superb-looking feature film that both kids and adults can enjoy equally. Finally a studio other than Pixar got it right. “Kung Fu Panda” is about a lovable, overweight, kung-fu-loving panda bear. Not only is the movie exhilarating to watch, but many of the characters are voiced by Hollywood stars who I didn’t even know were in the film before I saw it. Half the fun was guessing whose voice I was hearing throughout the 90-minute movie.

The Looney Tunes martial arts action in “Kung Fu Panda” is so dizzying at times you’ll feel like the silver ball in a pinball machine. The movie almost felt like it was designed to be seen in 3-D because it was so full of crazy camera angles and moving perspectives during the fight and chase scenes. Kids will love the fact that they’re watching talking animals fight using cool kung fu techniques (I loved it for that reason, too) and parents will enjoy the harmless (although sometimes scary) characters and humor the movie is laced with. More than once I found myself laughing out loud while the kid next to me didn’t get the joke.

Jack Black as Po the panda was a very wise casting move by the film’s producer, Melissa Cobb. Black’s overbearing comedic touch usually leans toward loud and obnoxious (even to me, and I’m a huge fan) but he tones it down in Kung Fu Panda and gives Po just the right amount of wide-eyed enthusiasm and charm. In fact, the movie is at its best when the attention is focused on Po and his struggle to become the next Dragon Warrior who will defend the village against its old nemesis Tai Lung (Ian McShane), an evil snow leopard who wants revenge on Po’s master, Shifu the fox (Dustin Hoffman), and the Furious Five (a praying mantis, tiger, monkey, snake and crane, each representing a style of kung fu).

The moral is clear, if not tired: There is a hero in every one of us, no matter how we are viewed by society or ourselves. Parents will appreciate the clear cut values of the film, which never becomes preachy, making the good guys very easy to root for.

It may not be as smart as “Ratatouille,” or have the charisma of “Toy Story” or “Monsters Inc.”, but “Kung Fu Panda” is far superior to most computer-animated films released in the past few years and way more fun to watch.

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or cowen@vaildaily.com.

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