Kung Fu Panda is a fun and predictable romp from the start to finish and that is perfectly okay. From the opening dream sequence to the final moments on screen Kung Fu Panda brings together the brilliance of Dreamwork’s 3D work with the rich colour palette of traditional 2D animation. This is not the first time the directors have worked on entertainment for the preteen set as Mark Osborne worked on Sponge Bob Square Pants and John Stevenson was the storyboard artist on Madagascar (a fact which is obvious upon viewing Kung Fu Panda).
Aside from a good storyline the key to a successful animation is the voice work and Kung Fu Panda has that in spades. Jack Black is superb as Po (the panda) with just the right amount of comic inflection and sincerity. On balance the remainder of the cast is simply stellar with Dustin Hoffman (Rainman) as Shifu the kung fu master, Angelina Jolie (Tomb Raider) as the self involved Tigress, Ian McShane (Lovejoy) as the sinister Tai Lung, the legendary Jackie Chan as Monkey, Seth Rogan is the diminutive Mantis and Lucy Liu plays the surprisingly empathetic Viper. Frequently overlooked though in animated movies is the direction which in this case is very well done imitating the Golden Harvest style from the 1970’s.
If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery then Kung Fu Panda is a sincere tribute to the tradition of the eastern martial arts movie. First there must be a person of low birth with ambition beyond his station (the alternative to this is a relative who has been unjustly killed), then there must be a route to be travelled to achieve the ambition. There must be rejection, disillusionment and finally growth. Kung Fu Panda covers all the bases and does so with remarkable ease and a great deal of humour. Simply put this is a wonderful movie that is well worth adding to your DVD collection.