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Kung Fu Panda Review

Kung Fu Panda

Noodle-shop boy Po (Jack Black) is one of the biggest fans of the Furious Five, Kung Fu masters and defenders of the Valley of Peace. When the vengful Tai Lung (Ian McShane of HBO's "Deadwood") escapes his inescapable prison, it is up to the founding master of Kung Fu (Randall Duk Kim, the Keymaker from The Matrix Reloaded), to choose one of the Five to become the Dragon Warrior and defeat Tai Lung.

Unfortunately, he picks Po instead.

It's up to a disbelieving Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), master of the Furious Five, to train the flabby panda in time to save the Valley from Tai Lung's wrath. This isn't going to be easy.

Kung Fu Panda is actually pretty good for a Dreamworks Animation production. The animation is really good, although not mind-blow, the action choreography (possibly choreographed by Jackie Chan?) is slick, impressive, and not too over the top. The overall moral to the story is that it is the journey that makes a person who they are, not the destination, and Dreamworks does a pretty good job of teaching that to the audience.

However, like most Dreamworks Animation productions, its biggest failure is its waste of voice-casting. This is a Jack Black vehicle (his name is above the title, after all), but fortunately for the movie, his typically frenetic comedic-performance level is dialed down from an 11 to maybe an 8, making the character of Po a much more enjoyable character to watch. Dustin Hoffman is actually pretty good, too (although I'm not sure if Shifu is suppose to be a mouse or what!), and the inclusion of veteran Chinese character actor James Hong as Po's "father" was a pleasure to hear. But the Furious Five could have been voiced by anyone. Most of the time I thought it was Jada Pinkett-Smith voicing Tigress instead of Angelina Jolie. I kinda recognized David Cross voicing Crane, and if I didn't know that Jackie Chan was voicing Monkey, I wouldn't have been sure it was him. But Seth Rogen as Mantis is just too new to be recognizable, and Lucy Liu as Viper doesn't have enough lines for the audience to figure out who she is. Jolie has the most lines of the Furious Five, which isn't saying much. It may have been cheaper for Dreamworks to use professional voice-actors instead of "stars" for the roles.

Kung Fu Panda falls just short of capturing that Pixar magic, but it is good enough to earn a solid B.
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