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KUNG FU PANDA, 2008
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KUNG FU PANDA MOVIE POSTER
KUNG FU PANDA
Movie Review

Directed by Mark Osborne, John Stevenson
Voices by Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie
Review by Eli Manning



SYNOPSIS:

Po the Panda is the laziest animals in all of the Valley of Peace, but unwittingly becomes the chosen one when enemies threaten their way of life.

REVIEW:

Never has actor Jack Black played a character so similar to himself than in Kung Fu Panda. Yes, this is an animation film and he is playing the voice of a Panda. But the Panda is his persona. An overweight, lazy guy who has big dreams and accomplishes those big dreams. The Panda's appearance has no right to be the Kung Fu saviour, just as Jack Black's appearance has no right to be a major movie star. But they both are and we watch because of their fish out of water existence.

As with most animation movies made these days, Kung Fu Panda has a great theme for the kids. This one is about following your dreams no matter what you parent has planned for you. This theme has been done before, but I don't mind the recycling because this is an important story for kids to watch.

I guess this is the next stage in the evolution of movies seeing animals perform martial arts and speak in Eastern Philosophy. The kids learn some cool tricks while also hear wisdom that probably haven't heard before unless they've seen The Empire Strikes Back. Dustin Hoffman plays this movies version of Yoda, which is an interesting but great choice as he plays it very surly -- kind of like he really doesn't want to be there.

This is a film with a star studded cast of voices: Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Ian McShane, Seth Rogan, Lucy Lui. It's just too bad they really didn't use any of them to its full effect. It makes you wonder why they got them in the first place. It's not like these voices will push the box office numbers. These are actors (Rogan and Lui especially) who could of really added more comedy to the film.

How it works in these animation films is that the actor comes in before any animation is done and does their voice over work with the written script. This gives the comedy actors a change to do some improv work with the script in hand and add their persona to the animation character they are voicing for. So the only question I have after seeing this film is why they didn't use any of these actors to their full potential. It's like bringing on David Mamet to write your play but giving him the exact material he needs to write. The story kind of fails overall as we really never get to know any character while the plot is a bit flimsy. But that's really not why we're watching, is it? Animation films are for education with strong themes and pure entertainment. And the fighting scenes in this film are exciting and a whole lot of fun to watch.

So, I can't completely recommend this film for everyone. But it's a great movie to take the kids to. It's just wouldn't be my first choice for adults to see.

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