Directors: Mark Osborne & John Stevenson
Voice cast: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, David Cross, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, James Hong
The last time Jack Black voiced an animated character, it was in Shark Tale. I hated Shark Tale. But it wasn't because of Black, it was because of Will Smith's annoying character Oscar. Thankfully this time, Black is the lead character, and he is actually a lot funnier than he is in his other live action films.
Kung Fu Panda tells the story of Po, an overweight panda who dreams of emulating his heroes, the Furious Five: a viper, a crane, a tigress, a monkey and a mantis, and become a hero of the valley. Alas, he is somewhat stuck helping his father selling noodles in his village. One day, the legendary Master Oogway, an old tortoise, calls for an event to select the Chosen One, who is destined to become the Dragon Warrior and protect the valley from evil. Po tries to attend the event, but ends up crashing it and through some sheer dumb luck, is picked by Oogway to be the Dragon Warrior!
Naturally, the Furious Five and their teacher, Master Shifu are not pleased, and overcome with disbelief that the fat panda will be the Chosen One. Oogway persuades Shifu to teach the panda the ways of kung fu, and Shifu obliges at first, merely to convince the panda that he really isn't the Chosen One. But Po presses on, and eventually manages to win Shifu over. However, there is danger on the horizon, as Tai Lung, a snow leopard who was once a student of Shifu, escapes from prison and vows to take revenge on his former master and the valley. Can Po live up to the prophecy and stop Tai Lung?
Well, this being an animated film, you can guess what the answer to that question will be. But animated films aren't about being surprised, it's about having fun. In this respect, directors Mark Osborne and John Stevenson score a huge amount of points in telling a familiar tale in a very fun way. Po reminds me of Chris Farley in Beverly Hills Ninja, but much more adorable and hilarious. We have Black to thank for that, by making Po very likeable despite his flaws, and that I mean physical ones of course. Dustin Hoffman acquits himself well in giving Shifu a definitive presence in the story. The other voice cast do a great job too, though the great Jackie Chan only got half a dozen lines as Monkey. I think that's unfair.
As for the animation, the technical crew are splendid as well. Master Shifu especially looks awesome up close, with every hair visible and real. The action scenes are fast paced and well choreographed, making this film not boring at all. It's a film with large doses of action, humour and suspense, with a little bit of drama thrown in.
I'd go as far as saying that this film is so much better than Shrek and all its sequels. This is good entertainment for all ages. Recommended. (4/5)