Kung Fu Panda

Let’s be honest – Dreamworks are no Pixar. Try as they might, Pixar are in a class of one. But that doesn’t mean that Dreamworks can’t make highly entertaining films, they’re just not the seemingly instant classics that Pixar seem to be able to produce on every outing. However, Dreamworks seem to have realised this, and instead of trying to beat Pixar, they’ve contented themselves with creating highly enjoyable films. Not all cinema has to be classics.

Kung Fu Panda is a strong affirmation of that philosophy. Featuring Jack Black as the voice of Po, an overweight panda who works in his father’s noodle restaurant who accidentally becomes named the Dragon Warrior – a master of kung-fu destined to inherit the awesome power of the Dragon Scroll, who must protect the town by defeating Tai Lung (Ian McShane). (Can anyone imagine anyone other than Jack Black voicing this part? It sounds like an animated version of Jack Black’s ideal life.) This doesn’t sit too well with the other members of the Jade Palace, especially Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman).

Cue a highly enjoyable, if not pretty clichéd, transformation story, where Po learns that he has the capability to be a great warrior, climaxing in the realisation that secret of the Dragon Scroll is that there is no secret – the capability was within you all along. Clichéd it may be, but that doesn’t mean that Kung Fu Panda doesn’t deliver a barrel of fun along the way – the dumpling fight scene is a wonderful example of that.

However, I must air one grievance. It’s not strictly with the film, but rather with the trailer. The trailer, which was getting some pretty heavy air time around the release of the film, features a scene in which Po bounces Tai Lung off his stomach with the sound-effect of Jack Black saying “Sk-dousch!” Nothing wrong with that. Except that the scene doesn’t happen that way in the film. The sound effect is entirely unrelated to that event. And I just can’t understand it. If the people making the trailer thought that that scene would make more people go see the film because it made that scene funnier (which, I must admit, it does), then why wasn’t the film itself changed to make it better? If it’s not better that way, then why go to the bother for the trailer? All it does is leave people feeling slightly cheated – at least half a dozen people in the cinema with me could be heard saying “Sk-dousch!” at the moment the trailer promised, only to be left hanging. It’s silly and childish, but that doesn’t make it less true.

However, this does little to take away from the fact that Kung Fu Panda is fun film, packed with big name stars (as well as Black, Hoffmann and McShane, the cast includes Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross and Jackie Chan), and with it’s fair share of good gags and laughs. B+.

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