June 13, 2008

Crouching Panda, Hidden Dragon

"Legend tells of a legendary warrior whose kung fu skills were the stuff of legend." First, Jack Black wanted to be a luchador in Nacho Libre. Now, his Kung Fu Panda's Po is an aspiring kung fu master but serves noodles at his father's (a duck voiced by James Hong) restaurant instead. He idolizes the Furious Five: Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Viper (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross), Mantis (Seth Rogen) and Monkey (Jackie Chan). They are all trained by Yoda-like Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) at the Jade Palace. Po is chosen by Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) to be the Dragon Warrior, protector of the Valley of Peace when he gets a vision that snow leopard villain Tai Lung (a menacing Ian McShane), escapes from prison to acquire the dragon scroll.

The opening sequence alone is a stunning homage to martial arts films. The CGI is spectacular to say the least. China never looked so beautiful and colorful. The action is rollicking and eye-popping, with crazy stunts and fight choreography only possible in animation. But the screenplay leaves a lot of room for the usual sage-like/cryptic advice from the masters, as well as witty, laugh-inducing lines. You even half expect Po to raise one eyebrow in Jack Black's trademark move. The film also has a lot of heart. Its message of acceptance, determination, confidence and self-reliance resonated even with this adult.

So prepare to see some awesomeness. Po isn't just a big fat panda...he is "THE big fat panda." Oh and stay after the credits for a little bonus scene.


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