Kung Fu Panda is an animated caper involving, as the name would suggest, a lot of kung fu and a panda. A rather obese panda in fact, who dreams of joining the Furious Five kung fu masters (despite his lack of kung fu ability), and ends up being chosen to save the Valley of Peace, much to everyone (including Po the panda’s) surprise. The threat is Tai Lung, an ex-student and adopted son of kung fu master Shifu, who had been imprisoned after throwing a strop and turning darkside when he was told he wasn’t worthy of receiving the Dragon Scroll and all of its kung fu secrets. You can imagine that both he and the Furious Five were a bit miffed when the Dragon Scroll was actually handed to the inept and tubby Po.
It’s a bit hard to know what else to say about this film. It did really well at the box office but I feel everything about it is a bit indistinct and nondescript. It was vaguely amusing, in a no-concentration-required sort of way, and I suppose it was all good fun, although I didn’t find anything particularly funny about it. I liked that Po the panda, voiced by Jack Black, was pretty much just Jack Black in panda form – a bit goofy, a bit silly, rather clumsy and a big character. Even the mannerisms and general appearance was reminiscent of Jack Black (minus the black and white patches, of course). I liked that his character was completely motivated by food, much like myself, although I’m not quite as quick and nimble when trying to grab a sneaky bite. It was perhaps a bit heavy on the moralistic side of things – good will prevail, it’s what’s inside that counts, yes you can be fat and a martial arts guru etc. I didn’t have a problem with any of this as such, it just all seemed a bit silly. And I found Angelina Jolie rather unbearable, even in tigress form. I don’t really know why she was there or what she contributed to the film. Much like in Despicable Me (see the link at the bottom of the page) there were a few big names associated with Kung Fu Panda for reasons which escaped me, as I couldn’t obviously tell who they played and they weren’t particularly recognisable (with the exception of Jack Black, of course). I do always wonder what the thinking is behind including these big names, when the studio could probably have used an unknown for a fraction of the cost and achieved the same results. After all, when it comes to animated films, surely it’s the plot that sells the tickets rather than the voices? We’re talking about fat pandas here guys, it’s not like there’s an eye candy contest on the screen. And when it comes to ‘voice presence’ or however it’s best described, I think Angelina Jolie’s on the unnecessary-slash-expendable list. I couldn’t even tell which character she played until the credits, I just guessed it was the tigress because she was the stroppiest. She’s by no means the only actor/actress guilty of this in Kung Fu Panda, but she probably is one of the most expensive ones topping this list, and one we could probably have done just as well without. I really think I’m on to something here, the profit margins would be through the roof if the animation studios listened to me! But until then, I might just watch the sequel to see if Angie and co make more of a contribution, because as far as I’m concerned, Kung Fu Panda was a one man Jack Black show.
See previous Film Review, featuring Despicable Me.