96. Kung Fu Panda - The Part-Time Critic

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

96. Kung Fu Panda

Kung Fu Panda (2008)
Directed by Mark Osborne and John Stevenson

I think that Kung Fu Panda is one of the more overlooked animated films of all-time and I’m one of the few who thought it should’ve beaten Wall*E for the Animated Feature Oscar of 2008. Shakespeare this film isn’t; but it’s a solid, efficient, and perfect animated film that is an absolute delight to watch.

From the over-stylized opening sequence (that had me laughing from the get-go) to the artful credit sequence, Kung Fu Panda is a tightly wound and plotted work. I applaud the decision to go simple and innocent with the tone of the film. I particularly enjoyed the idyllic settings the animators painted for this universe; the simple landscapes and town folk (mostly made of ducks and bunnies) would feel at home in a children’s cartoon on Disney channel.

Great attention is also paid to the action sequences. It’s clear that the animators and writers have researched and been influenced by past Kung Fu film, because the fights pay homage to all the necessary trademarks of kung fu while remaining refreshingly contemporary as well as exciting. Three sequences are standout action set pieces; Tai Lueng’s prison breakout, Po’s Dumpling Training, and the final showdown between Tai Lueng, Shifu, and Po.

As much as I enjoy the action in this film, the biggest reason I wouldn’t want to live without this film is because of the characters. I’ve had the opportunity to watch this film several times now and I’ve grown fond of the ever-positive but physically challenged Po (voiced excellently by Jack Black), as well as the restless, conflicted, but basically good Shifu (also voiced excellently by Dustin Hoffman).

It’s in the interaction between these two characters that the film really finds its soul. These are two living breathing characters that have their own weaknesses and strengths, and for a simple and innocent family film, it’s refreshing to see such conflicted yet triumphant characters.

While the main message of the film (if we believe that we can be special then we will be special) is a good and worthy message, I really connect with the relationship between Po and Shifu. That they ultimately find redemption and success when they admit their faults and work together is a simple delight that few films have to offer. Honestly, when was the last time a film delivered an honest, innocent, and simply delightful payoff? You know this film works when it can successfully end with the its two central characters just relaxing together on the floor. For that, and all else that goes with it, Kung Fu Panda is a film I can’t live without.

Other Essentials: The moment when Po tries to take some broken concrete as a souvenir, the wushu finger hold, the amazing intro for the turtle Master Oogway

Here is a link to my original review of Kung Fu Panda from June 2008


  1. so the first movie from 2008 makes an appearance. Going by your list for 2008, we should see three more. However, the planning of the two lists is not the same. You were going for more of a 'best film' list in your Leaman Awards not a movies you can't live without. I definitely expect to see The Dark Knight on here, the other two, not so sure. Although Doubt does have your two people so if for nothing else, perhaps it'll make it on here for the scenes they have together. I know you really liked RGM but could you live without it? Maybe. Hmmm. Again, we shall just wait and see.

  2. so I just read your comment on Grave of the Fireflies. Only one Meryl film? I doubt it will be Doubt then (haha). Out of Africa? Kramer vs. Kramer? Mamma Mia could still slide in there.

  3. omg, I'm an idiot. I know what movie. "Done with fish" I so want to watch that now. Sorry for all the posts. :)