The movie Kung Fu Panda is basically what the name says. A panda that does or is going to do Kung Fu, no surprise there right? With animation movies nowadays they always originate from one of the big studios: Pixar (now part of Disney) or Dreamworks. Pixar being the one with the more kid friendly movies like The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille and the recently released Wall-E. Dreamworks however is aimed for a bit mature audience with movies like Shrek, Bee Movie, Madagascar and Flushed Away. Kung Fu Panda is the work of the latter one.
When it comes to animation movies one thing can be certain. They keep getting better looking. This is also the case with Kung Fu Panda. The fur of the panda Po is very nicely done. As is the way they use the different ways of lighting and style to tell the story. But most importantly the smooth display of Kung Fu fighting animated style is what makes this movie fun to watch.
But this alone does not make a good animation movie. Of course you need much more; things like good dialogue, good story and that little special thing which keeps the audience entertained till the last minute and even during / after the credits! What an animation movie does not need per se is a can of “famous” actors.
Kung Fu Panda overdid the actors’ part. People like Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Ian McShane, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen and Lucy Liu (and many more) were attracted to say a few lines. And with a few lines I really mean a few lines, since Kung Fu Panda contains a lot more action than the average animation movie, dialogue is not really its focus. Some of the characters only had 2 to 3 lines! Why pay this much just for a voice? To boast sales? C’mon, if you just say “from the creators who brought you Flushed Away, Madagascar and Shrek!”, you would already have people sold!
Ok now I am being harsh, Jack Black performing as Po the panda and Dustin Hoffman playing Master Shifu were casted excellent. Combine that with the evil snow leopard Tai Lung played by Ian McShane, you got yourself a great combination. It is their performance (well if you can call animated characters performance) that makes this movie fun to watch.
Without giving too much away of the story, one can expect the certain “I’m a zero and if I train hard enough I will be a hero to beat the evil villain”-kinda story. This is also the case with Kung Fu Panda. Po is a big fat panda who works for his father in a noodle restaurant, but dreams to be the Dragonwarrior and kick some serious butt. He eventually gets to this point, but not without certain bumps he has to overcome.
Now with most of these types of movies, those bumps are stretched out way too far and you either get bored and walk out or just fall a sleep. But with Kung Fu Panda they keep it coming at a good steady pace. So those bumps are not annoying, but as an audience you will simply have to accept it as “part of the story”. You have no other choice since the movie already has moved on. So as a viewer you have to focus or you are sure to miss out on certain parts.
Nice additions in this movie are the different fighting styles combined with the animal species. Like Jack Chan who plays “Monkey” and also uses the fighting style monkey. Same goes for Mantis, Viper, Tigress and Crane. All their movements match real life fighting styles and the nerve attacks you see during this movie are also the real points one would hit on a human. So when it comes to the action sequences, they are perfectly animated.
So with the pace of storytelling, the (again) improved graphics, the nice fighting styles and the interaction between Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman you get to see a solid Karate Kid experience.