As surprising as it may be for hoopla.nu regulars to read this, I am comfortable in stating that Kung Fu Panda is one of the better animated children’s films released in recent years.
Jack Black voices Po, a flabby and clumsy panda who dreams of fighting alongside his kung fu heroes, the Furious Five. By day he works for his father in a noodle store, but deep down he knows he is destined for greater tasks. When rumours surface of the malicious intentions of the much-feared Tai Lung (Ian McShane), Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) is forced to search for the return of the famed Dragon Warrior, the only one who can save the village.
Although having a roster of famous actors to voice animated characters is trendy and seemingly felt to be necessary in the marketing of such films, in many cases those voices can distract from the enjoyment of the film itself. Instead of revelling in the colours and movement, for adults at least there is a danger of being taken out of the moment by subconscious nagging recognition of the voice. This occurs frequently throughout Kung Fu Panda, and the eventual credit sequence that names the voice actors comes as a relief – perhaps naming the stars up front would remove that irritation, although for the intended target audience this is a minor gripe.
Otherwise, there isn’t much to complain about. The animation is bright and colourful, with rapid movement and fight sequences cut almost as if they were live action – this is entertaining for kids, but one wonders how much this technique is used to hide animation glitches. No flaws are obvious, however, and the animal caricatures are effective at communicating their characters.
The story is archetypal, but never pretends to be otherwise, and in many ways this works for the film instead of being a weakness. Watching Kung Fu Panda is a comfortable experience that allows the audience to just sit back and enjoy its indefinable alchemy of animation, voice and plot. There is little pretension, and none of the ‘oh so cute animals doing human things’ business that afflicts many similar films. It also never becomes overtly moral or preachy, another flaw that is all too prevalent in children’s entertainment.
If audience reaction is anything to go by, Kung Fu Panda is likely to be a winner with kids and adults alike, and a favourite on dvd in years to come. It seems a long time since I enjoyed an animated film as much.Rating: