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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Film Review: KUNG FU PANDA

This is the first film since Road to El Dorado and Prince of Egypt that has been made by Dreamworks animation Studios that has been 100% original and that I have thoroughly enjoyed.

The art of the film is beautiful and one can see that much more effort has been put into each shot than ever has been put before in a Dreamworks animated film. Each shot is finely crafted with a delightful depth of field that adds to the realism, and for once there are no blatant fart jokes or obnoxious sexual innuendos. Good job.

Kung Fu Panda tells the story of Po (Jack Black), a Giant Panda who works in a noodle shack with his dad, but dreams of becoming a great kung fu master like his Idols, "The Furious Five". Soon he is given that task, and not a moment too soon when the evil, furious, Tai Lung breaks out of prison and heads to destroy Po's new master Shi Fu (Dustin Hoffman)and take the mystical dragon scroll for himself so he can unlock his true potential as a kung fu god.

Besides the fact the film is a obvious Jack Black vehicle, it is priceless. The banter and interactions between him and Dustin Hoffman are fantastically polarized and they are the only two characters that you can believe are interacting with out a doubt. Each plays off each other so well, you never want their scenes to end. It is not the same way with the Furious Five.

The Furious Five (Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, and David Cross)are all nice characters except the only ones that talk more than one line are Crane (David Cross), Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Mantis (Seth Rogen). It seems someone caught Jackie Chan coming out of the bathroom and said, "Hey would you record one line real quick so we can put you on some of the top billing for our film." Seth Rogen has a few memorable lines, mainly about being a tiny mantis charged with such huge responsibility, and Angelina Jolie takes the charge of a talented student who is heartbroken that Shi Fu will not believe in her to make her the Dragon Warrior.

Michael Clark Duncan plays Commander Vachir, a superior, big headed Rhino who is the warden of the prison that Tai Lung is being held in. Between him and Dan Fogler, who plays a small goose sent to check on the prison, many comedic interactions occur, and one begins to see that Duncan may have some good comedy skills in the making that will hopefully be put to more use in the future. The prison itself could be put into its own short film because of how fantastic it is, and some of the best action scenes ever animated take place in it.

The beginning of the film is one of its strongest parts. In a new 2D traditional animated format all done by once Disney, turned independent, turned Dreamworks animator James Baxter (He animated Rafiki and Quasimodo, the film bursts to life in a way that can only be described as if Samurai Jack and Disney Feature Animation had a baby. The art is rich and new, fulfilling its goals 100%.

The age of Crappy Cgi movies (at least artistically) is over as was shown by Ratatouille and confirmed by this film and Horton Hears a who. Animators have finally unlocked the magic of how to make a computer animated film that does not scream "A computer did this!" every second, and is a joy to watch and look at every aspect of. Hopefully the stories can stay quality, if not get better, as they are now.

Also, just to point out, Dreamworks has been plagued over the past few years with the curse of putting ridiculous pop culture references in all of their animated films which detract from the story and the enjoyment of the film. I am pleased to report that this film has ABSOLUTELY NONE. Good Jobs Dreamworks, small awards will be handed out to your story crew in the lobby.

Also... Does Anyone Know What Kung Fu Gecko is? Besides the obvious rip off of Panda, the film looks humor-less but quite beautiful and nicely rendered.

4 stars

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