Christian Movie Reviews - Family Friendly Entertainment

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Kids and Adults Will Get a Kick Out of Kung Fu Panda

  • Christa Banister Contributing Writer
  • Updated Nov 14, 2008
Kids and Adults Will Get a Kick Out of <i>Kung Fu Panda</i>

DVD Release Date:  November 8, 2008
Theatrical Release Date:  June 6, 2008
Rating:  PG (for sequences of martial arts action)
Genre:  Animated, Action/Adventure, Comedy
Run Time:  88 min.
Directors:  Mark Osborne and John Stevenson
Voices by:  Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Randall Duk Kim, Ian McShane

Pursuing your dreams—no matter how big or small—has been a time-honored theme in many a kid’s movie, and the Jack Black vehicle, Kung Fu Panda, doesn’t stray too far from form.

What inevitably sets the kiddie flick apart from its even-sappier predecessors is a snappy script packed with plenty of lovable characters. Even with the oh-so-recognizable pipes of Black, Dustin Hoffman and Angelina Jolie giving these animated animals their distinct voices, it’s never really a distraction when matched up with a smartly paced script and lush, eye-popping visuals.

With his trademark over-the-top mugging, replete with plenty of tickle-your-funny-bone, comedic moments, Black lends his voice to Po, a perpetually pudgy panda with serious dreams of becoming a kung fu master. And when he’s not daydreaming of kung fu world domination, he’s working for his father (a goose—which is never really explained, but hey, you roll with it) at a Chinese noodle shop nestled in the Valley of Peace.

Even though Po has been assured that the family business could be his someday, he just can’t get too excited about the idea of built-in job security. But a dead-end career path takes a fortuitous turn when a mishap with fireworks causes Po to be in the right place at the right time. See, at a nearby temple, the head monk, Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) had a vision that the power-mad Tia Lung (Ian McShane) will escape from prison and destroy the peaceful Valley in his quest for dominance. To stop this, Oogway must discern the one who rightfully deserves to become the Dragon Warrior.

There are five fairly obvious candidates for the honor, all apprentices to the illustrious Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman):  Monkey (Jackie Chan), Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Viper (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross), and Mantis (Seth Rogen). Yet, as the result of a seemingly random chain of events, Oogway actually chooses Po.

Po??? This decision, of course, comes as a surprise not only to an outraged Shifu but to his dedicated students—especially Tigress who is perfectly captured in all her cattiness by an underused Jolie. And let’s face it, the thought of Po confronting Tia Lung is pretty laughable, considering that the chubby panda has trouble making it to the top of the temple's stairs. But, in true fairy tale form, Po has plenty of hidden talents for success that Shifu is able to discover and unlock, even under a time crunch. And anyone who’s seen this story played out before knows exactly what happens next:  Unexpected friendships are formed. Lessons are learned.

Much like Moses who didn’t exactly feel adequate when God asked him to lead His people to the Promised Land, Po is positive that he doesn’t have what it takes to compete with those five expert students who are definitely more worthy on the surface, thanks to their extensive training. But through the power of hard work, mentoring, and ultimately, believing in himself (which is about as deep as it gets in a movie that relies heavily on Zen platitudes), Po is able to accomplish more than he thought possible.

To give those sometimes eye-rolling clichés some real entertainment value, however, the script writers saw fit to inject plenty of kicky martial arts action and get some serious comedic mileage from Po’s kung fu fanboy tendencies, which appeal to the geek (and dreamer) in all of us. And those thoughtful additions are what inevitably lift Kung Fu Panda from sub-par kiddie fare to a thoroughly enjoyable popcorn flick that’ll likely entertain kids and parents alike. Or at least until Wall·E hits theaters.

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  None.
  • Language/Profanity:  Nothing more scandalous than the occasional “Oh crap!” during a fight scene.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Po places a couple of noodle bowls on his chest that resemble breasts. In one training scene, Po gets hit “in the tenders” as he calls them. 
  • Violence:  There’s an abundance of marital arts-styled fighting that includes spears, swords, crossbows and explosives.
  • Religion:   Zen philosophy is apparent throughout; the most notable example being the practice of meditation seen a handful of times. While Po is exploring the Jade Palace after being chosen as the Dragon Warrior, he sees the Sacred Hall of Warriors, the vase of 1,000 Whispering Warriors, and later learns the Secret of the Dragon Scroll (the secret is, there is no secret:  "To make something special, you must believe it is special.").