Kung Fu Panda

2008, PG, 91 min. Directed by Mark Osborne, John Stevenson. Voices by Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross.

REVIEWED By Josh Rosenblatt, Fri., June 6, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

After years of skulking around in Hollywood’s shadows – writing anonymous Internet reviews, collecting Star Wars trading cards, leaking insider information about geopolitical subtext in Cloverfield – fan-boy culture finally has a movie hero to call its own. Po (Black) may be an animated panda bear, but make no mistake: Deep down, he’s really just a nerd with a pop-culture obsession. In Kung Fu Panda’s opening scene (animated in a gorgeous, throwback, two-dimensional style that suggests both the work of Jamie Hewlett and Indonesian shadow-puppet theatre), Po imagines himself as a great martial-arts master teaming up with local heroes the Furious Five (featuring a monkey, tigress, viper, crane, and praying mantis) to defeat vast and evil armies. Of course, in reality (disappointingly three-dimensional, Pixar-like reality) Po is a master of nothing; he’s just the rotund son of a noodle-shop owner living in a small Chinese village who gets his kicks playing with action figures in his bedroom. Of course, that all changes when destiny drops him at the feet of kung-fu master Shifu (Hoffman), leading to the revelation that he’s actually a “dragon master” waiting to blossom and save his village from the vengeful tiger Tai Lung (Deadwood’s McShane, who manages to go 88 minutes without uttering an obscenity, though I’d love to see the outtakes). But so what if Kung Fu Panda’s message is timeworn and clichéd (believe in yourself, even if – especially if – you’re flabby and uncoordinated and no one else believes in you)? And so what if by the time this movie hits the DVD rack, all its CGI miracles will have been brushed aside by the next animated blockbuster? No criticism by me will matter one bit to the thousands of kids who will make up this movie’s howling, lunch-box-buying fan base. With a lovable, lumpy loser as its hero, the movie is just the kind of antic David vs. Goliath tale children can’t get enough of. At the screening I attended, there was a young boy in the audience who couldn’t contain his delight during the film’s climactic battle between Po and Tai Lung, in which the bear’s bowl-full-of-jelly midriff turns into an ineffable source of cosmic power. “He sat on him again!” the kid squealed over and over, as if the secret to a happy life is watching a cartoon bear plant his big backside on the head of a cartoon tiger at least twice a day. And who’s to say he’s wrong?

More Films
Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton
Intimate portrait of the surfing legend only skims the surface.

Danielle White, Oct. 20, 2017

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House
Account of the informant who brought down Nixon's administration

Marc Savlov, Oct. 20, 2017

More by Josh Rosenblatt
SXSW Film Review: <i>Bikes vs. Cars</i>
SXSW: Bikes vs. Cars
Swedish doc looks into the war between wheels

March 16, 2015

SXSW Film Review: <i>Sweaty Betty</i>
SXSW: Sweaty Betty
A dog, two single dads, and a 1,000-pound pig

March 15, 2015


Kung Fu Panda, Mark Osborne, John Stevenson

AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)