It’s our last non-anime of the year. Time flies when you’re having fun writing about fun stuff to watch!
What is it?
Kung Fu Panda is a 3D CGI DreamWorks animated feature film which spawned sequels and a television series.
What kind of story is it?
It is simultaneously a loving homage to the martial arts movies of yore and a tongue-in-cheek send-up of many of its tropes. It is a typical hero’s journey where the loser, dreamer, nobody of a guy ends up achieving his lifelong wish. It is a culture clash between the heroes who live the warrior lifestyle and the fanboy who idolizes them. It is a fable with a moral at its core.
That is a lot of things for a ninety minute movie aimed at kids to be all at once, yet it generally succeeds at all of them.
Why do you like it?
Kung Fu Panda is funny, clever, smart, and a visual delight. Like the other DreamWorks computer-animated entry on this year’s list, How To Train Your Dragon, it stands up to repeated viewings and is, in fact, one of those movies where if it’s playing on the TV I find myself just settling in to watch the rest regardless of what part I walked in on. It’s a “popcorn movie,” to be sure, but it’s a very good popcorn movie.
What might one not like about it?
Going into my first viewing I had reservations, mainly because I’m not usually a big fan of Jack Black’s shtick. I found that it doesn’t take long to get past that and just roll with things, but your mileage may vary.
You might also be disappointed at how little Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan are given to do with their characters by comparison to Angelina Jolie and Dustin Hoffman. It is what it is, I suppose.
Other thoughts about it?
I haven’t watched the TV show or the third movie, but the second movie is remarkably solid for a sequel. It suffers a bit from cast creep but the story itself is much more compelling and, occasionally, heartbreaking. If you get through the first Kung Fu Panda and want a bit more, check out the next one at the very least.
Where can I watch it?
The usual suspects (Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, etc) will rent you a viewing if you’d like, or of course you can buy a shiny platter version.