Ken's Review: Kung Fu Panda - Pixar Better Watch Their Back!

June 6, 2008

So maybe it's a little too soon to tell Pixar to watch their back, especially with Wall-E looking amazing, but it looks like DreamWorks Animation is stepping up their game. Honestly I haven't been that impressed with the films DreamWorks has produced over the years. Sure they had that one film a long time ago called Shrek that was great. Then they had that other one named Shrek 2 which was really good too, but besides those two, there just haven't been any others from DreamWorks that I walked away from being very excited. That is until I watched Kung Fu Panda just the other night and was totally blown away.

Po (Jack Black) is a fat, lazy panda that works in his dad's noodle shop while secretly dreaming of being a Kung Fu master like the Furious Five - Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Mantis (Seth Rogan), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Crane (David Cross) and Viper (Lucy Liu). Due to a vision by the head of the Jade Palace, Po is chosen to fulfill an ancient prophecy and become the Dragon Warrior in order to save the Valley of Peace from the evil snow leopard, Tai Lung (Ian McShane). Only the training from Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) can prepare Po to face Tai Lung and finally bring peace to the village.

Po meets Shifu and the Furious Five for the first time in Kung Fu Panda.Kung Fu Panda Review

From the opening DreamWorks logo to the end credits, everything in this film worked. Jack Black is mostly like he was in School of Rock, but more toned down. I assumed that the whole film would become the Jack Black show and that the story would get lost. This couldn't be further from the truth. Black was able to play his part while still letting his personality shine through. As far as the other characters go, David Cross and Seth Rogan were great but had small speaking parts. Actually aside from Dustin Hoffman, the others didn't talk much at all. Still, all the actors were able to make each of their characters their own.

I'm no expert on animation styles and techniques, but I absolutely loved the animation in Kung Fu Panda. The colors were bright and alive and seemed to jump off the screen. The art design for each of the different areas like the Jade Palace, The Valley of Peace, and the Chorh-Gom Prison are breathtaking; not to mention the shading, water, and fire effects. Especially impressive was how smooth all of the scenes flowed together. With all that was going on and the speed at which it was happening, I thought it might not look that great, but I was proven wrong.

Even with the excellent voice acting and beautiful animation, what impressed me most were the fight sequences. This isn't your normal cheesy animated fights. These are in your face, edge-of-your seat martial arts fight scenes. When The Matrix first came out on DVD, were you one of those who watched just the fight scenes over and over? I was one of those people, and I can tell you I'm going to do the same for parts of Kung Fu Panda. It might just be animation but there were scenes that were just as exciting as some of the fights in Afro Samurai or Ninja Scroll. This is one of the reasons that Kung Fu Panda is so great. It does a perfect job of mixing awesome fighting with comedy and some dramatic overtones.

Shifu trains Po to be a Dragon Warrior in Kung Fu Panda.Kung Fu Panda Review

The only reason I'm not giving this movie a perfect rating is because of Ratatouille. I compare it to that because as amazing as Kung Fu Panda was, it failed to hit me on a deeper level like Ratatouille did. The story just didn't have that deep impact which is so rare to find in an animated feature anyway. If only they could have taken it to that maturity level while still being a kid's movie, this would have been my first perfectly rated movie of the year.

This is definitely one of the most enjoyable films I have seen in 2008. I would even go as far as to say one of my favorite animated features of all time. It really blew me away and made me toss out my assumption that you can't see action like that outside of Japanese Anime. I can't recommend going to see this enough. If you have kids or not, this is a film for everyone that will make you laugh and do kung fu chops in your seat. This should be at the top of your list to see this weekend.

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the kungfu is really well done

jose carlos on Jun 6, 2008


I agree again with your review. Although didn't you think the ending was little abrupt?

hiroki on Jun 6, 2008


Good to hear! Your review and that healthy Tomatometer ranking has made me interested - although I was already drawn in by the great trailer.

Minic on Jun 6, 2008


The trailer did very little for me, but I'm pleased to hear the overall film is worth a look. Wife and I might just need to get a babysitter! Note to author... please get out of habit of "Pixar watch your back!" (title) and then "not really!" (story) and/or "Ridley Scott doing follow up to Blade Runner!" (story) and then "Not really a follow up like a sequel, just more sci fi." (after the click.) To put it bluntly: It is better when you just tell it like it is, instead of apologizing for the misdirection.

dRailer on Jun 6, 2008


I'm not getting this whole Dreamworks versus Pixar set-up so many reviewers fall prey to. It's not done with any type of live action movie where we would read, for instance, that Sony Pictures better watch out because Paramount or Warner Brothers is doing this or that. Can't we just enjoy good movies from whatever their source, and judge each movie on its own merits?

OutOfSync on Jun 6, 2008


sweet, have to see this

Darrin on Jun 6, 2008


Pixar has such a solid track record with its films; no other animation studio has come close to their success. It's no surprise that every CG animated feature that comes out is compared to them. It's not that DreamWorks can't put out a great animated family film. It's just that they haven't been able to captivate moviegoers the way Pixar has since the original Shrek. Based on the early buzz of Kung Fu Panda, it looks like DreamWorks may finally have another "animation classic" on their hands. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Jeff on Jun 6, 2008


Dreamworks will never achieve the same greatness as Pixar. Enough said.

ALEX on Jun 6, 2008


I agree, this is VERY amazing! Must see. If it wasnt for Wall-E this is a best pic. winner.

Ryan on Jun 6, 2008


I can only say, "Prepare for awesomeness!" and tonnes of it!

James on Jun 7, 2008


Just watched it and... I totally loved every bit of it. 🙂 Total awesomeness!

egghub on Jun 7, 2008


My wife and I took our kids to see this movie last weekend, and as a martial artist, had been dreading it. It was my fear that Dreamworks would make a mockery of the martial arts, their traditions, and would miss on the whole spirit behind Kung Fu. I was completely surprised, and to be honest, blown away by how good it was. It was of the same caliber as the Toy Story movies, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Shrek, Ratatouille, etc. Very well done, good story, and exceptional fight scenes. They could have done a better job showing what happened to the bad guy at the end, but other than that, it was great.

Hutch on Jun 10, 2008


Yes. Totally awesome! 😀

andydreamseeker on Jun 12, 2008


i would choose panda as the best picture of the year wall e is too boring overall

d on Jun 28, 2008


runescape on Oct 18, 2008


One of the few Dreamworks films that I actually did enjoy. Definitely a new one on the list of favs. 🙂

CoryCow on Feb 1, 2009


-Just getting into Krav Maga myself. Can you recommend and dvd's or videos for me to watch?

max on Jul 21, 2009

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