Monday, June 9, 2008

Kung Fu Panda Review


Overall Grade: A-

Can we say surprise of the season? The early trailers and TV spots for this film did absolutely nothing for me, and actually served to turn me off to it. I watch about 100 films a year and the trailer for this one actually forced me to write this film off the list...that was until the early reviews began to roll in for this film. So what was it about this film that surprised me so much?

This is a film that hits every note its supposed to, and really delivers the goods. To start, Jack Black is perfectly cast as the panda, and his usual schtick here is kept to a minimum. In fact, I found much of his lines in the trailer to be poorly written and most likely just comedic riffing, but within the context of the movie and the story, the lines are absolutely perfect.

Secondly, the story is a spot-on parody and homage to kung fu stories. If you've ever seen any of the old chinese kung fu films, a Jackie Chan film (who is also in this one), any of the recent Zhang Yimou films, or even the Matrix films (as there is some Matrix thrown in as well), then you'll recognize some of the same story elements here as well. Its not exactly an epic and sweeping story, but its very light, good-natured, and most importantly, its consistent with its reality and characters. In fact, the world this story inhabits is beautifully drawn out and inhabited by its residents. Refreshingly gone from this world is the self consciousness of most animated fare these days, and suprisingly few scatalogical jokes.

Lastly, the action is expertly crafted and animated, and really beats most of the great action scenes I have seen this year. Several people have compared the action scenes in this film to those found in The Incredibles, but I actually think that they are much superior. I would put two scenes (a fight over a dumpling and a breakout from prison) in Kung Fu Panda against any action scene in any animated film I've ever seen. It was wonderful to walk into this film not expecting engaging and exciting action.

This is a film for all ages, and its really just a great film to enjoy. It fails to be an (A) film for me because its themes are well drawn, but not neccesarily true. Just thinking that something is special doesn't necessarily make it special, and it really flies in the face of the theme that The Incredibles pushe which is that there truly are some people who are special, and that should be celebrated and not brought down. Aside from that, this film is a great time. If you liked The Incredibles and you also liked Over the Hedge orThe Emperor's New Groove then I think that this film is for you!

For your viewing pleasure I've included the movie trailer below as well as a scene from the film. If you don't want any spoilers, don't watch the scene. If you want an idea of the action, here's a clip from that prison break scene I reference above. Skidoosh!
Kung Fu Panda Trailer
Prison Break Clip

4 comments:

PRchick82 said...

Kyle!
Kung Fu Panda was cute, I'll agree. I'd probably go for a B or B-. I thought the number of slow motion Matrix-esque scenes got a little old. But hey, I am but an amateur at movie ratings.
What I really want to read is your critique on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Elaborate on that C+ please!

In other news, hope you are well, my friend. I've finally had the chance to catch up on watching movies now that life is post-grad school. :D
--Itamar

Christopher W. Bailey said...

Haven't seen it yet but I'll have to agree with you about that trailer. It had to of been the worst I've seen all year and it certainly didn't inspire me to see this one on the big screen. That is, until the Leaman factor hit home.

Kyle Leaman said...

Itamar,
Good to see (or read) you! Hope everything is going well in MA! I can see the argument about too many slo-mo moments. From my personal preference, I thought it was done just right; but I also thought there was just the right amount of slow-mo in Return of the King as well, and we all know how much Peter Jackson used in that film! I watched Chronicles before I created this blog, so I didn't get a review up. I have thought about catching up on some 2008 reviews, but it will have to wait a little ways. Suffice to say that my "C+" for Narnia was being a little generous. More thoughts to come hopefully in the future. Good to see (or read) you again!

-Kyle

Kyle Leaman said...

Chris,

Due to legal concerns and several notices from Bill O'Reilly's "The O'Reilly Factor", any use of The Leaman Factor must cease and desist. From now on it should just be called "The Leaman".