Monday, January 19, 2009

A quick review: Kung Fu Panda - Fun start to finish, but it's no Pixar

Kung Fu Panda

I'm really not sure how this one slipped through my radar. I'm a sucker for animated movies, but somehow I missed out on Dreamworks' Kung Fu Panda last summer. Do I ever regret it. Though it lacks some of the polish of the better Pixar films, it's an hour and a half of beautiful fun.

This movie is just plain enjoyable. It's funny, and the story is deep enough to keep an adult audience entertained (though it's not without its holes.) The final hour is nearly non-stop, beautifully animated action only heightened by wonderful cinematography. The characters and environments are superbly simplistic, and the choreography of the fight sequences rivals anything I've seen.

I only wish it could have lasted longer. The plot progresses fast enough to make the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs, and, as a result, a few things fall by the wayside. The dynamic between Po (Jack Black) and his master, Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), is played out well, but the other characters could use more screen time. The Furious Five, Shifu's other students, barely fit into the plot. They're there, they leave, and they come back for the end. Not to mention that if not for a couple of karate kicks two of the five wouldn't even be in the movie.

There are finer points, too, that could have used some finesseing. Black, though okay, is a miscast. His voice just doesn't fit Po's look and mannerisms. I never really believed that Po was speaking. Rather, Black was speaking through him. The sound design could have also used work as some sounds get repetitive to the point of annoyance. These issues, though minor, are not problems found in works from Pixar and Disney (old Disney, that is) and sadly relegate Kung Fu Panda to the crowded group of good but not great.

Want ninety minutes of fun? Whatch Kung Fu Panda. Even thought it's not the best I've seen, I smiled the whole way through. I bet you will, too.

3.5 of 5 stars

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