Starring: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Ian McShane
Director: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson
Running Time: 92 mins
Kung Fu Panda is an American film about an obese panda with a passion for kung fu who is accidentally appointed as the legendary Dragon Warrior. However, as time passes and he begins to understand the world of kung fu, it turns out that he may truly be the one and only Dragon Warrior.
We see a lot of fun family animations from Dreamworks, but only a few really stand out in my memory, namely Shrek 1 & 2, Madagascar, Over The Hedge and Wallace & Gromit. So, it’s nice to see another that works surprisingly well as an entertaining comedy for the whole family in Kung Fu Panda. With fun voice performances, great animation, and a simple yet effective story, it’s a light-hearted but properly enjoyable movie that stands among Dreamworks’ best.
For me, the best thing about Kung Fu Panda has to be the voice performances. Jack Black does a great job in the lead role as Po, and makes him a lovably incompetent lead character that you’re always willing to support throughout. Alongside Black are the likes of Dustin Hoffman, who is both hilarious and very convincing as a red panda martial arts master, James Hong as Po’s adoptive father (a goose), and Ian McShane as a surprisingly threatening villain in a vengeful snow leopard.
But not only is this a very well-acted film, it’s also a very well-written comedy. It’s properly funny at times, and will do more than just entertain the kids, featuring a good few jokes that adults will appreciate alongside their children, whilst it meshes its comedic elements well with its very simple but very enjoyable adventure story.
From start to finish, there are three very clear acts. Po is appointed Dragon Warrior and is rubbish. Po gets a bit better. Po then has to prove himself against an adversary. You may think that such a simplistic plot structure would make for an underwhelming watch, but that’s not the case here.
Instead of getting bogged down in something that’s overly complicated and unnecessary, Kung Fu Panda settles for a simple but very enjoyable plot in exchange for more room to play with good comedy and entertaining characters. As a result, you may not be on the edge of your seat watching this, but I can guarantee you’ll be smiling at this smoothly executed, short and sweet comedy.
And then there’s the animation. Again, in terms of animation brilliance, Dreamworks has never been top dog, but they always manage to make their animation style fit well with the film at hand. Here, it’s all very sweet and simple, mixing well with the film’s light-hearted atmosphere, but it also impresses with some visually delightful depictions of Chinese architecture and art, adding an extra bit of flair to the film that I didn’t expect going in.
Overall, I had a lot of fun with Kung Fu Panda. It’s without a doubt one of Dreamworks’ better animated films, and with some great voice performances, fun direction, good comedy and a simple yet effective plot, you’ll easily have a good time with this movie, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.4.