It must be said from the off that seeing Kung Fu Panda was a true pleasure to me and that it is easily the best film that I have seen in the cinema since Sweeney Todd over six months ago. Watching a film like this reminds me why I love films so much. As of late, kids movies have attempted to appeal to both the market of adults and children, and many have failed miserably at their attempts to appeal to the former. However, Kung Fu Panda is different than that, and I think that it is a shame that such a good film will inevitably be obscured by the monumental Wall-E. For starters, it is not an overly complicated story, I mean, it's a panda who does Kung Fu. For starters, Jack Black as Po, the Kung Fu panda who discovers that he is the long-awaited dragon warrior, despite being never mind untrained in the art of Kung Fu, is a lazy oaf in the vein of Homer Simpson (and an appetite to match), is superb, playing the role to the best he can, playing slapstick, geeky, lazy and emotional all at once, further cementing his position as one of cinemas top funnymen. Dustin Hoffman too as Master Shifu plays his role with the same effort that he puts into his live-action roles, creating Shifu as a very three-dimensional character who has many different pieces in the jigsaw that make up his character. Also, Ian McShane as Tai Lung creates an angry, intimidating, but not entirely unsympathetic villain which brings to mind that of Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner (listening to his voice, you could be forgiven for thinking it being Roy Batty). Also, the direction of Mark Osborne and John Stevenson helps keep the actors in place, and they are successful in doing so. The only criticism for the acting in this film is that because the characters previously mentioned are so well-acted and strongly developed, the rest of the big name actors (who I'm sure cost a fair penny to hire) merely fade into the black (pardon the pun). Also worthy of mention is the music in the film by Hans Zimmer and John Powell, which brings to mind the sounds of the recent East Asian Wu Xia martial arts film such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero. The animation in this film is also superb, with the opening sequence coming across as a real eye-opener and the rest of the film being tarnished with the lush, bright colours of China, creating perhaps the best "animation" that Dreamworks has acheived in any of its films. As mentioned earlier, there are some sympathetic characters, and this is highlighted by a strong screenplay which does actually bring out the viewer sympathy in what is effectively millions of computer-generated pixels. However, it is not without laughs, being marketed as a comedy after all, and while Jack Black does run away with the gags (and the film), there are many moments in the film in which the other actors get their moment to shine and make us laugh (yes, even the villain). All in all, while it is certainly no masterpiece, Kung Fu Panda is an extremely enjoyable family film which I'm sure enjoyed great box office until Wall-E trounched it off the screens. Also, not only does it appeal to the family, all fans of the martial arts genre will see this as a fitting and original take on the genre, giving us all something we know and love and something new at the same time. I guess that's the best sentence to describe the film. Not special, not groundbreaking, but an original take on the familiar.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.0/10